by Alix Tonsgard
For young children, public bathrooms tend to be either fascinating or terrifying. We see all ends of this spectrum here at the Museum – from the children who want to peek under the dividing wall to meet their bathroom neighbors, to the children in fear of the auto flush hurricane. If your child tends to err on the side of fearful in public bathrooms, here are a few things you can try the next time you are out and about.
Be aware of the autoflush: Autoflush toilets can be very powerful, loud, and all around terrifying to young children, and they don’t always flush when you expect them to. You can use your finger to cover the sensor to avoid unexpected flushing. Let your child know that you are covering it so it won’t flush until you are ready and give them fair warning when it’s time to let it go.
Little eyes are watching: Modeling behavior is a powerful tool when it comes to everything. In this instance, if you have a child that is fearful or anxious about using a public toilet, it may be helpful for them to see that you are not afraid and to have you talk them through it.
Side saddle the toilet: Sometimes it’s about the size of the grownup potty and the fact that their lack of core strength makes it tricky to balance. Have your child sit sideways to help them here or consider buying a fold-up child-size seat.
The last thing to remember is that this, like all other stages, is a stage that will pass. Take deep breaths and remember that you are not alone in this experience. The shared moments in the bathrooms, hallways, and stairwells at DCM, where caregivers are connecting with strangers with this shared sense of “I know what you’re going through,” are some of my favorite moments that remind me of the many reasons DCM is even more than a place to play and learn.
Alix Tonsgard is an early learning specialist at the DuPage Children’s Museum.