The public restroom can be a very scary place for small kids. They’re cramped, gross, and full of strangers. To make matters worse, most sinks are too high for your little ones to reach, some door locks just don’t work, water can be too hot or too cold, and so on…
First time parents can understandably be nervous about letting their little ones go in alone for the first time. So how can you make public bathrooms less unfamiliar and less intimidating for your child? And how do you ingrain the right habits while they are still being formed? The following are ways to help make the experience less stressful for your little one:
Never Talk to Strangers
Instruct your child not to talk to strangers while in the restroom. Many parents are worried about leaving their kids alone in a public restroom with strangers. If you’re worried about someone preying on your child while they are on their own, consider this:
- Ask young boys to always use the stall instead of a urinal. Most types of toilet partitions should provide sufficient privacy as well as enough room for a parent to be inside with their small child. They also provide an extra layer of protection for children who are too young to understand the importance of privacy.
- If there’s a security guard or employee of the establishment, don’t hesitate to ask for assistance. They should understand the concern for small children’s safety in restrooms.
- Dress your child in clothes that he/she can pull up and down easily so they can get in and out promptly.
Use Family Restrooms When Possible
Family restrooms have become more and more popular in recent years. Family restrooms are unisex toilet rooms that typically include a daiper changing station.
If it’s your first time potty training your child in public, you should start training in a family or unisex bathroom. Good family restrooms often have big cubicles with an adult toilet and a kiddie toilet the right size for kids.
This is a great way to get them started with the right habits and hygiene. It’s also a great opportunity to let them practice going alone.
Don’t Bring Toys or Food in the Public Restroom
One study found that the highest concentration of germs in public restrooms are found on the floor. Never allow your child to bring toys or food in the bathroom. Ask kids not to place belongings on the floor in the bathroom.
Most toilets have hooks for bags and surfaces for other items, ask your child to make use of those. The toilet floor is teeming with dirt and microbes that eventually can get transferred to the objects you put on the floor. So, don’t let the germ-infested floor get your child sick!
Respect The Privacy of Others
Small children love to explore their surroundings. That’s why it’s important to remind them to respect others’ privacy.
- Teach your child to patiently wait for a vacant stall if all of them are already occupied.
- Teach them the importance of respect and discourage trying to open the doors of toilet partitions when they are already occupied. Teach boys to respect urinal screens as boundaries.
Wash Hands Properly
The public restroom can be very unsanitary with real threats of acquiring serious illness or disease. The best weapon against germs and bacteria is hand washing. Teach your kid to rub their fingers with soap, rinse well and dry.
Don’t forget to bring your hand sanitizer with you. Apply it to your child’s hand as soon as they come out from the restroom. It isn’t uncommon for public restrooms to have empty soap dispensers and having your own hand sanitizer will provide you an extra level of assurance.
Dry Hands Thoroughly After Washing
Did you know bacteria multiplies faster on wet hands compared to dry ones? Even if you washed your hands, it won’t be long before bacteria is making its way back and damp hands allow it to multiply more easily. So after washing, teach small children to dry their hands completely.
It’s understandable that most kids until preschool age will want you to wipe for them but it’s best if you teach them how to do it from a young age.
Start by showing them how to do it. Teach your child just how much toilet paper they need. How to fold it. For girls, teach them the proper way to wipe from the front to back (this helps butt bacteria stay where it should, which is critical for vaginal health).
Teach your kid to avoid touching the flush handle with their bare hands. Flush handles are teeming with bacteria and can easily get transferred from their hands to their mouth. To avoid this, teach your child to use toilet paper to touch handles
As much as possible, teach your kids not to touch anything in a public restroom, be it wall surfaces, faucets or door handles. Use kick plates to open doors when they are available and have sanitizer at the ready.
Get In and Out Promptly
Kids get distracted quickly and the bathroom is no exception. It can be fun to run the sink water and play with the liquid soap dispensers. But it’s important not to waste time in public restrooms. Teach them not to spend more time than necessary in there and to be aware that other people may be waiting for them to finish up for their turn.
Not only is it good manners to move along quickly, but it is also an important safety consideration for kids to avoid spending more time than necessary in public restrooms where they can potentially wind up interacting with strangers.
Restrooms are unfamiliar places and it’s okay to be scared at first. You should not chastise or embarrass your child for being afraid or making mistakes early on. With the right encouragement and hygiene practices you’ll have your little ones well-behaved and well-prepared for the next stage of their lives in no time.