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 that's it's time to stop when it's time to stop. I know, it is not much of a response and it is vague, but the exact when 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, as well. 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 lots of other interesting topics. Children can learn a lot by just taking a bath. Parents should use 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. This will help them become comfortable and proud of their bodies while they learn to properly care for themselves.
- Gender differences. Bath time is a perfect opportunity to casually discuss body parts and their physical and biological functions. Use bath time to discover and discuss anatomy.
- Changes in the body. Bath time is a great time to introduce a child to the idea that their bodies will morph and change as they grow up. Yup, that’s usually the topic that comes up when they start asking about hair in odd places.
- Other science topics. Turn the bath into a science classroom. If you don't know the physics of water or evaporation or how bodies work and can't answer your child's questions, then read a little more so you can share fascinating facts and tidbits in the tub.
- Creativity and imagination. The bath is a wonderful place to create stories and pretend play experiences for your child using floats, toys, bubbles, soap, and water.
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?
Where Negative Ideas About Nudity Come From
First of all, in the eyes of a child, nudity may not be awkward at all since children view naked bodies without any learned attitudes or preconceived notions. Chances are, it is the adult who feels uneasy with nudity. . . thus unconsciously perpetuating shame and judgement by modeling it to the child.
A child jumps into the tub without feeling a tinge of embarrassment. In contrast, the adults react with alarm or panic at the sight of a child streaking naked across the room. I am not saying that in my house we strut around in our birthday suits, but society has placed a considerable taboo on nakedness. So, how do we turn bath times into less awkward moments?
How to Make Bath Time Less Awkward
- Don’t feel embarrassed about your body. Every imperfection on your body is yours. Instead of teaching your child to be self-conscious, be proud of your body and what it can do.
- Teach your child to properly wipe down and cover up. I remember my daughter just raising her hands, waiting for me to wipe her down after bathing. Although I want to pat dry every inch of her to make sure she's dry, I showed her how it's done so she acquired the skill to do it on her own. I noticed how my daughter loves putting a towel around her hair how her mom does. After bathing, I dry myself and cover up quickly, since it is not necessary for me to prance around without clothes.
- Answer questions about the body in a relaxed 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. It is counterproductive to answer such questions with made-up stories, as that does not help them learn about anatomy.
- Use exact vocabulary. Moreover, do not be embarrassed to used actual words to label body parts, since proper labels help children increase their vocabulary. It's important that you feel comfortable telling your 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 understand 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.
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? And when should you stop bathing together? 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 after 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. Many children will need longer to learn.
Your bathroom will probably resemble a war zone after your child takes a bath alone. Children can spend a hefty chunk of their shower time just playing, and that can drive any parent crazy. However, this is all part of the learning process, and it may take some time for your child to acquire the skills.
Thus, we should start to wean our children from showering with us after they have learned the proper bathing routines. Doing so teaches indispensable life skills to the child while they build up their independence.
Learning About Privacy and Independence
A corollary of taking a bath privately is dressing privately. When our kids are younger, as they learn how to dress on their own, they will still require assistance in putting on clothes. Thus, teaching them to dress is another life skill that promotes independence. If your child puts their own clothes on inside out, that is a normal part of the learning process, 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 well. Likewise, avoid clothes with complicated buttons, hooks, or even knots and 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 on her own. Some parents may opt to take the clothes into the bathroom, but that is up to you. If you share a room with your child, you may want to give them privacy while dressing. 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 sees or touches. Giving your child the understanding of privacy in their own body will help ingrain the idea of self-possession and that there are boundaries that people must respect.
School age is an ideal time to practice privacy, since that is when the child begins regularly interacting with other people outside of the family. Letting them set boundaries regarding their own bodies will benefit them as growing people, tweens and teenagers, and into adulthood.
When Children Start Expressing Independence
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 suddenly, she put on a stern face and said, “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. She was clear and precise with her words. Moreover, she knew her boundaries and expressed them.
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.
Fun Things to Do While Bathing Together
Bath time is easy when the child just stands there while you scrub the filth away. It’s like cleaning a car: It’s much easier to do when the car is parked and not moving. However, they will not learn much if you take all the control all of the time. Instead, show your child the bathing routine and let them try so they learn how to do it properly. Here are fun ways to inculcate proper bathing routines during bath time:
- Follow the leader. In the bath together, the parent shows how to clean a part and the child imitates the action. Your child should have their own bathing paraphernalia (sponge, washcloth, etc.).
- What’s next activity. Ask the child what comes next after a particular activity. For example, what comes after shampooing the hair? Let the child take the lead and show you what should be done after each activity.
- How to clean the part properly. Ask the child to show the ways to properly clean specific parts of the body. Pay close attention to cleaning between the toes, backside, and behind the ears. Pay attention on how they rinse, since this is often a difficult thing for kids to remember. Choose soaps and shampoos that are child-friendly.
Weaning a Child From Showering Together
The move from supervised to independent bathing is slow. Make sure the child has mastered all the basics before letting them bathe alone.
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 independence, 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 bath paraphernalia available.
- Keep in mind that they may not scrub nor rinse properly and will need help.
- 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's capabilities so keep the child’s skill level in mind 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 clean up the bathroom properly after the bath.
- The child dries properly after bathing.
Independent bathing is a gargantuan win for parents since it frees us up from this chore. Likewise, it helps promote independence for the child, 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.
What Parents Learn From Bathing With Their Children
So, what are the takeaways from this article? Well, let’s see.
- First, bathing time is a wonderful bonding time parents share with our children.
- Moreover, it is a life skill our kids need to master.
- Likewise, bathing is a superb means to foster independence.
- 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 realize that certain parts of their body are private. They will learn about privacy and how to set boundaries with their own bodies.
- An accepted rule of thumb when to stop showering with your child is when they reach school age. Of course, this comes after weaning them from bathing with parents.
- So, expect imperfect executions (messes) and terrible bathroom conditions (more messes).
- 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 babies in our hearts. Small steps like learning when to stop showering with your child will help us trust and let go.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 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.