As a family life and child development expert, JP has devoted years in nurturing students and strengthening family relations.
Parents shower with their kids. I bet you did, as well. People around the world bathe or shower with their children, and you might be one of these parents. The question is, when does it become awkward to shower with your child? The short answer is when it's time. I know, it is not much of a response, and it is vague, but it varies from family to family.
Below, I give you all the facts to know when it's time to stop showering or bathing with your child. Stopping too early can spell disaster in terms of proper hygiene, but stopping too late may have negative repercussions. Let’s explore this very common activity—taking a bath with your child.
The Bathroom as a Classroom
The bathroom is a phenomenal classroom to educate your child regarding the body, hygiene, germs, dirt, water, soap, and other interesting information. Thus, children can learn a plethora of knowledge by just taking a bath. Parents should exploit this opportunity to educate while simultaneously entertaining their kids.
What Children Learn at Bath Time
- Positive body image. Help your child understand that they are beautiful regardless of how they look. This will help them become comfortable and proud of their bodies while they learn to properly care for it.
- Differences between boys and girls. Boys and girls have distinctive body parts that have specific biological functions. However, it is prudent to save the conversation about the birds and the bees for later. At this point, use bath time as a platform to discover and discuss their own anatomy.
- Changes in the body. Teach your child that their bodies will morph as they grow up and these changes will happen at certain periods of their growth. Yup, that’s usually the the topic when they ask about hair in odd places so watch out for these types of questions.
- Other science topics. Turn bath time into a science classroom so you can create learning moments with your child. However, this requires that you know what you are saying thus, read a little more so you can share fascinating facts and tidbits.
- Creativity and imagination. If your science facts are insufficient, then your recourse is to create stories and pretend play experiences for your child with bubbles, soap and water. They are equally fun for kids since their imagination and creativity are working overtime at this stage.
Suffice to say, the bathroom is a wonderful place to learn especially when you are a kid. Who does not want to splash around and play with bubbles?
How to Make Bath Time Less Awkward
First of all, nudity in the eyes of the child may not be awkward since they look at naked bodies without malice. Chances are, it is the parents or adults that feel uneasy with nudity, thus unconsciously perpetuating this feeling and modeling it to the child. Try to recall the last time your child ran out of the bath naked and didn’t feel a tinge of embarrassment. In contrast, the adults, jump out and panic at the sight of a child streaking naked in front of them. I am not saying that we strut in our birthday suit around the house but society has placed a considerable amount of taboo in nakedness. So, how do we turn bath times into less awkward moments?
- Don’t feel embarrassed about your body. Every imperfection on your body is yours and instead be proud of what you have.
- Teach the child to properly wipe down and cover up. I remember my daughter just raising her hands while waiting for me to wipe her down. Although I want to pat dry every inch of her to ensure she does it properly, she acquired the skill to do this on her own. Also, I noticed that my daughter loves putting a towel around her hair just like what her mom does. Likewise, I wipe down and cover up at once since it is not necessary for me to prance around without clothes.
- Answer questions about the body in a succinct manner. My daughter once asked me “Why don’t I have that?” she was pointing at my penis. Then she looked at her body with a perplexed expression. She followed up with, “Mommy does not have that.” I simply answered that it was a penis and that only boys had them. Then she went on her merry way of making bubbles as I tried my best to remove the permanent ink from her arm. It is counterproductive to answer such questions with made up stories as it does not help them learn about anatomy. Moreover, do not be embarrassed to used actual words to label body parts since proper labels help them increase their vocabulary. So be comfortable to tell the child that boys have penis while girls have vulva and vagina. For the record, the vulva is the outer part of the female genitalia while the vagina is the birth canal. Many individuals fail to use the appropriate label for the parts - even women so now that you know, don’t make the mistakes of mislabeling the parts.
We feed our children the information that they need to learn about their bodies by properly explaining and answering questions. Likewise, we provide them with knowledge about what is socially permissible and what is not. Moreover, we help them understand their own bodies and how they should act by answering queries concisely. If you are feeling awkward regarding questions about naked bodies, then buckle up! When your child asks about sex it can become harrowing. How do you answer questions about sex? Well, that’s for a different article.
When It's Time to Stop Showering With Your Child
Let’s dive into the nitty-gritty. So when is it time to let your child take a bath on his/her own? There are numerous parameters to consider when making this shift. To wit: age, cognitive level/understanding, or even socio-emotional maturity of your child. But here is the norm:
What the Experts Say
Experts like Dr. Richard Beyer, a psychologist in California suggests that we should not shower with our child as soon as they reach school age. That’s is around 5 years old but most kids don’t even know how to scrub and soap properly at this age. Thus, we should slowly wean our children from showering with us early while teaching them proper bathing routines. Doing so teaches our kids an indispensable life skill to the child while we build up their independence. But I know, children can spend a hefty chunk of their shower time just playing and that can drive any parent crazy. Plus, there is a higher chance your bathroom will resemble a war zone after your child takes a bath alone. However, that is part of the learning process and it may take some time for your child to acquire the skills. So, we go back to my initial answer - readiness and time. Remember, this is a skill that requires ample practice. And the road to a perfect bath is arduous. Furthermore, learn to accept the possible hardships and take precautions to make it easier for everyone. The technical parlance for this is to "suck it up" even if it is difficult.
A corollary of taking a bath privately is dressing privately. When our kids are younger, they require assistance in putting on clothes but they need to learn how to do this on their own. Thus, instructing them to dress up is another life skill that promotes independence. Parents should not wait for the school to teach this skill and instead start teaching it at home. Surely, at their age, seeing them wearing clothes inside out is normal so don’t freak out. Instead, show them how it is done and give them prompts and cues to master it faster. To help your child dress up independently provide clothes that fit comfortably. Likewise, avoid clothes with complicated buttons, hooks or even knots to encourage them to rely on themselves and build their skills.
Prior to taking a bath, my daughter chooses her clothes and places them on the bed. And when she’s done bathing, she dresses up on her own. Some may opt to have their clothes with them in the bathroom, but that is up to you. There are pros and cons for these dressing up choices. If you share a room with your child, you may want to give them privacy while dressing up. Of course, supervision is required at first but when they become more proficient you can give them more privacy.
Learning About Their Private Body Parts
As we teach our children about their bodies, we also talk about their private body parts. Private parts mean places that no one else must see nor touch. Dressing up privately is an excellent way to practice this mindset. This is especially true when it is between a parent and child with different genders. This will help ingrain in them that their bodies are private and reinforce the idea that there are boundaries that people must respect.
School age is an ideal time to practice this since It is when the child interacts with other people apart from family. Setting boundaries regarding their bodies will benefit them especially in the future so consider educating your child about this mindset early.
On occasions, I forget that my daughter is growing. There were times when I would playfully tap her tushy as she walked by. When she was younger she’d just waddle along like an adorable duck. But now, she’d put on a stern face and say, “I do not like being touched like that, please don’t do it again.” It was embarrassing since I inadvertently violated her physical boundary. Of course I owed her an apology. Although it was embarrassing for me I was so proud that she verbally stated her feelings about what happened. She was clear and precise with her words. Moreover, she knew her boundaries and acted promptly.
Perhaps it is just me, but I feel there is more pressure for fathers to give more privacy to their daughters as compared to mothers and sons, I may be wrong. I actually do not mind it and I am proud that my daughter has learned to be independent. More importantly, she sets strict boundaries regarding her privacy.
The journey towards independent showering is not instantaneous and necessitates relentless supervision and loads of patience. However, here are the critical steps in this endeavor that parents need to pursue diligently.
Fun Things to Do While Bathing Together
Bath time becomes effortless when the child just stands there while you scrub the filth away. It’s like cleaning a car, it’s easier to accomplish when it is parked and not moving. However, this is neither productive nor advantageous so change your tactics. Instead, show your child the bathing routine to follow so they will learn how to do it properly. Here are fun ways to inculcate proper bathing routines during bath time:
- Follow the leader. The parent shows how to clean a part and the child imitates the action. Your child should have their own bathing paraphernalia.
- What’s next activity. Ask the child which comes after a particular activity. For example, what comes after shampooing the hair? Let the child show you what should be done after each activity.
- How to clean the part properly. You can ask the child to show the ways to properly clean specific parts of the body. Pay close attention to cleaning between the toes, back and behind the ears. Moreover, pay attention on how they rinse since this is often a difficult part. Rinsing the hair is likewise a tedious task that can cause eye irritations. As such, choose soaps and shampoos that are child-friendly.
How to Wean Your Child From Showering Together
Supervised bathing is when the child bathes on their own while a parent supervises. This ensure that the child follows proper bathing steps and each one is done to perfection (or close to what resembles perfection). This is a step towards independent bathing so take the time to focus on the details of proper bathing techniques. Likewise, when a parent is there, the child focuses on the activity and not on playing and distractions.
Reminders for Parents:
- Ensure there are bathing items and paraphernalia available
- Keep in mind that they may not scrub nor rinse properly.
- Praise the child for excellent work while reminding them if they miss anything.
Once you are confident that your child can follow the routines properly consider independent bathing. This takes a considerable amount of trust in your child capabilities so keep in mind the child’s skill level before moving to this phase. Some of the key factors to consider this are:
- The child can follow the right procedure when bathing.
- Bathing is executed satisfactorily - proper cleaning and rinsing.
- The child remembers to stow away bathing materials properly.
- The child wipes down properly after bathing.
Independent bathing is a gargantuan win for parents since it frees us up from this tedious chore. Likewise, it helps promote independence for the child thus giving them a boost in self esteem. My daughter started taking a bath on her own when she was around 5. Her mom and I alternately supervised her as she took a bath. It was never perfect but it gave her a sense of accomplishment every time she got out of the bathroom.
So, what are the take away from this tiresome article? Well, let’s see. First, bathing time is a wonderful time parents share with our children. It is a learning opportunity that we should use. Moreover, it is a life skill our kids need to master. Likewise, bathing is a superb means to foster independence. Second, let’s not teach our children to feel awkward or embarrassed about their bodies. Instead, they should take pride in it and learn to care for it properly. Furthermore, children must realize that certain parts of their body are private. As such, they should set boundaries and learn to keep it private. Third, an accepted rule of thumb when to stop showering with your child is when they reach school age. This helps reinforce the concept of privacy and boundaries. Of course, this requires weaning them from bathing with parents. So, expect imperfect executions and terrible bathroom conditions. Lastly, never forget that your child is growing and maturing. Perhaps the most excruciating part for a parent is letting go of our little ones. Although they will never be our babies forever, they will remain to be our babies in our hearts. Small steps like learning when to stop showering with your child will help us trust and let go.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2021 JP Carlos
JP Carlos (author) from Quezon CIty, Phlippines on April 08, 2021:
Hello there Sp Greaney,
Educating kids is very important. Teaching them early seems logical. After all, parents don't leave forever. Moreover, their experiences will go beyond the household and family, they need to learn how to act and react properly.
JP Carlos (author) from Quezon CIty, Phlippines on April 08, 2021:
Hi there Stephanie Purser, I've come across many parents asking if showering with their kids is acceptable especially at certain ages. Although there is no one rule to answer this, I believe that we have to put our children's best interest first. I am glad that you found this article informative.
Sp Greaney from Ireland on April 08, 2021:
This was very interesting to read and you really talk about some interesting things in here that many parents come across.
I think your daughter recognising her boundaries was very interesting. I think kids need to be more informed today about things because of the ways society is.
Stephanie Purser from Australia on April 07, 2021:
I found this article a lot more informative than I was expecting and as a parent, agree with your advice. Congratulations on a great piece!
JP Carlos (author) from Quezon CIty, Phlippines on April 07, 2021:
Hello Devika Primić,
Thank you for the kind words regarding my article. Bathing is a life skill that children need to learn. I am glad that your child was able to do it early.
Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on April 07, 2021:
Interesting points about parent and child bathing time. I let my child bath on his from a young age well, when I knew it was safe and that he could do it by himself. I like your ideas and it sounds good.