Share this post.

The Mentor’s Field Guide: Question 42

B. Grooming Problems

These include anything from an un-kept appearance to hygiene issues. Grooming problems occur for a variety of reasons. Perhaps no one has shown your mentee how to clean himself properly and take care of his skin and hair. Perhaps there is a health problem involved, the child is being neglected at home, or has a weight issue that results in grooming problems. Children from impoverished environments or children who are homeless commonly face grooming challenges related to cleanliness and access to proper clothing and food.

Your own grooming habits can provide a powerful example for your mentee; however, there may be times when you need to talk with her about grooming and personal hygiene. Of course, this is a topic that requires special sensitivity. Sometimes an indirect approach can work. You might introduce a book on the topic to read together or get a video on making the best of your appearance. There are websites that allow you to see how you would look if you changed certain aspects of your appearance, as well as websites on health issues specifically for kids. A good one is, which has sections for adults, kids, and teens, as well as educators. If you decide to talk to your mentee, consider your mentee’s age, gender, and what you know about her or his circumstances to figure out the best approach. For example, as noted earlier, girls tend to be more sensitive about body image.

Some kids will respond to a respectful but direct approach, such as, “I have noticed that your clothes and face could be a lot cleaner. Can we talk about that?” Other kids may appreciate a humorous approach, such as, “I see you have your sloppy look on today.” You can also talk about how to dress appropriately for activities you might be doing together, although you need to be sensitive to the fact that you mentee may not have appropriate clothes. Girls might respond to a “makeover” activity where you take turns styling each other’s hair and makeup. During the course of this activity, you can talk about hygiene and cleanliness.


If you suspect that your mentee’s family is not able to provide for basic grooming needs, talk to your program coordinator. A school nurse can also be quite helpful for advice on how to talk to your mentee. For example, he or she may be able to refer a young person to a doctor or other health care specialist who can treat teenage acne, a particularly embarrassing challenge for many young people, especially those without adequate health care. The school nurse may also be able to secure or make a referral to free-sources for skin and hair-care products and so on.

Reprinted with permission from The Mentor’s Field guide: Answers You Need to Help Kids Succeed by Gail Manza and Susan K. Patrick; Questions about the Mentoring Relationship, Question 42 part B. Reprinted with permission from Search Institute®, Copyright © 2012 Search Institute, Minneapolis, MN ; 877-240-7251, ext. 1; All rights reserved.