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Thursday, February 19, 2009

It's bathtime

A common childhood phobia can be bathing, or the bathtub itself, and usually occurs in toddlers. If you have a child who is frightened of taking a bath, then you know how frustrating it can be. Fortunately, it is usually just a phase that will eventually pass, and until it does there are many things you can do to make the bathing experience comfortable for both of you.

First, try to pinpoint just what it is that scares your child when it comes to taking baths. It can be different for everyone - some children are afraid of the water pouring in, while others are afraid of looming shower heads that might threaten to pour water on them in any given instant; some are afraid of something so extreme as being sucked down the drain when you unplug the tub, while others simply fear getting water or soap in their eyes. Whatever the issue is, once you realize it, it will be easier to accommodate your child's bath to better suit him and make things easier.

If your child happens to be afraid of the tub being filled - the pouring pressure and loud noise of the water coming in can be frightening for some children - then just pour the water before you bring him into the tub or even the bathroom at all. Don't turn on the water at all while he is bathing. If you need to wash and rinse his hair, just use the water that is already in there or fill up a cup or bowl ahead of time for you to use for this purpose.

Make sure you have a very gentle shampoo and soap to bathe your child with. This will lessen the chances of irritating his eyes if any happens to get into it, thus eliminating the fear of soap burning the eyes. Of course, if in the past soap has already burned his eyes, he may automatically be afraid of it still, and many children hate the feel of water in their eyes in generally, even when it doesn't hurt. There are special water-pouring cups on the market (usually in the baby bath section of stores) that prevent any soap or water getting near the face when you wet or rinse the hair. What I tend to do is use a detachable shower head, turn it on the very soft setting, and gently rinse the soap out of his hair. With this it is easier to avoid getting water and soap all over his face, but of course this will only work for children who aren't afraid of the shower head!

If none of those things work when it comes to the water-in-eyes fear, you may want to try some swimming goggles, provided that your child will let you put them on. But for many, this adds some fun to bath time, as well as keeping water and soap from the eyes.

If your child does happen to fear the shower head itself, there are different techniques you can try. One is, if you have a detachable shower head, to remove it and leave it sitting out of the bathtub so there's no fear of it suddenly turning on. If this doesn't work, it usually helps to show your child that there is no way for it to turn on by itself - you can show him one day when he isn't in the bath at all, that it only works when you turn on the water and the lever. The way that really worked for me is to let my child play with the shower head. I even turned it on to a low setting and let him hold onto it, letting him realize that there is really nothing to fear.

The fear of being sucked down the drain, as silly as it may sound to an adult, can actually be a common fear in young children. At that age, they haven't yet grasped the comprehension between their size as it is relative to other things. It can be difficult to make a young child understand that it is impossible to go down the drain along with the water. A simple solution to this fear is to just not unplug the bathtub until well after you take your child out of the bath and the bathroom itself.

In the meantime, make sure to give your child some opportunities to play with water, outside of bathing time. Stand with him at the sink, fill it with a little water, plug it, and let him play in it with some toys. Encourage him to try new things, such as unplugging and replugging the sink himself so he can see just what happens. This will help him grasp the understanding that he won't be hurt by going down the drain. This can also help for children who just fear the water in general.

Keep bath toys that are strictly for the bath. This will create a nice incentive for your child to want to take a bath, so he can enjoy the toys that are just for that purpose. It can also keep things fun and exciting to keep a variety of different bath toys, and switch them up every now and then.

To help your child feel more involved in the bath process and in control of things, it can be encouraging to help him choose things - take him to the store to pick out toys just for the bath, keep a couple of different character-inspired shampoos on hands and let him choose which one he wants before taking a bath, etc. Something that really worked for me were those little bath color tablets, that change the color of the bath water. It became a routine to let my son choose which color he wanted and let him throw it into the tub full of water and everything. He would get excited to watch the color change, and made the whole bath experience much more fun.

If absolutely nothing seems to help your child overcome the fear of the bath, there are other things you can try, such as using a smaller basin or baby tub inside of the larger one. This can help a toddler feel more secure and safer. Just adding a very small amount of water to the tub instead of filling it with several inches may also help. If these things fail too, try taking a bath with your child - just the presence of a parent can be comforting to a bath-fearing child.

One thing I've noticed, is that bath time became more of a hassle for my son when it would always be right before bed time. He began to associate taking baths with going to bed, and so he'd try to get out of it thinking it would forever prolong bed time. Switching baths to the morning or earlier in the evening, so there is a gap between bathing and bed time, should greatly help this problem.

Above all, be gentle and encouraging with your child when it comes to baths. Do your best to make it a pleasant experience, and never force him into the bathtub - this can make fears even worse than they already are, and last a longer period of time than they have to. If he absolutely refuses to enter the bathtub, then give him a sponge bath in the meantime and remind yourself that this is a phase, and it too shall pass.

1 comment:

AllenSentance said...

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Hey.....life is good.....

Allen Sentance