Dear Dr. G,
Since the start of the school year there have been multiple outbreaks of lice in our school system. This has spread to the daycares and who knows where next. While I know it’s not the plague, it’s not something I want my kids bringing home. How do I protect my kids from getting lice and how do I talk to them about it without making them feel defensive towards others who have it. Furthermore, how do I delicately ask parents to check their kids before letting them into my house and when I KNOW their kid has lice and they have not adequately treated it what can I do??
Itching to Know in TN
Avoiding lice is like avoiding cold germs. It’s hard to do, unlikely to succeed and worthwhile to try.
First off, Itching, explain to your kids that lice are tiny, and don’t jump anywhere. They crawl slowly. So the tricks to avoiding lice at school do NOT require them to avoid kids who have lice. To avoid lice at school they need to avoid things that touch peoples’ heads.
1. No hat sharing. Ever, even when there isn’t a lice outbreak.
2. No comb/brush sharing.
3. Don’t borrow someone else’s coat with a hood.
When there is a known case of lice, you don’t want to lie on the person’s bed or couch, or have them lie on yours.
Focus your kids’ lice-avoiding attention on objects – not people.
Now, how to avoid having lice carriers come in to your home? Adult to adult conversation that includes a fair amount of self-deprecation. What I mean is you have to be able to make this about you not their kid. Here’s how:
If you’ve ever personally had lice in your family, say so! Then talk with a smile or a laugh about how time-consuming, frustrating, unending the clean up was, so they can completely understand your PTSD. This will make it much easier for you to ask a parent to check (or let you check) the heads of kids who want to come in to your home.
If you’ve never had lice in your home, then you are clearly in the running for the Guinness Book of World Records and don’t want to ruin your chances. But don’t say that – it sounds braggy. Just own some lice-phobia. Say “I have an unreasonable paranoia about lice, do you mind if I check your kids before they come in?” Again, make it about you and not them.
It is completely normal to be freaked out by lice. It is completely normal to try to avoid it. Try not to freak out when one of your kids comes home with it, however – it is almost a ritual of childhood!