Has your little one gone from being a water baby to now screaming the second you start talking about bath time? Fear of bathtime can be quite common with babies and children of all ages for many, many different reasons. Whether it’s a fear of the water itself, the drain, the shower head or anything else to do with the bathroom, that fear for them is very real. There are steps that you can take to help ease their anxieties and help them rebuild their confidence.
Rebuild their confidence
Most of the time when children become afraid of the bath all of a sudden, it means that something has frightened them. Perhaps something happened in their last bath that triggered this response, something they watched in a movie, or something that you may never be able to figure out. It may not have been anything that seemed significant to you but enough that it has put them off from the bath for the time being.
Baby steps to help them adjust
- Turn on the water for the tub and then turn it off and walk out of the bathroom. This will help them adjust to the sounds of the bath or become acclimated once again to the sounds of the bath.
- Let the water gently run over their feet as you hold them
- Have them sit in the empty bath and let them play with some of their favourite toys.
- Put a little bit of water at the bottom and both of you step in and play around for a minute or two.
The amount of steps you need to take to help your child become comfortable with the bath really depends on your child and the extent of their fear. Some children are so terrified that they will need a lot of preparation to help rebuild their confidence while others may just need a few steps before they are comfortable with the bath again.
Play through their fears
After you have taken the steps needed to rebuild their confidence in the bath, you can begin to play with your child using some of the tips below. One of the things that can really help our toddlers or older children conquer their fears and anxieties is to play with those fears. Playing along with laughter can help small children offload some of those big feelings and emotions while helping them face and overcome their fears.
Here are some playful ways to encourage fun play with your toddler or child:
- Sometimes taking a playful bath with them can help them feel more confident to be in the bath. You can have a bathing suit “pool party!”
- Splash yourself in the face and then laugh about it. You can even let them splash you that one time to encourage some fun and laughter. Laughter is a wonderful way of offloading feelings and emotions.
- If your child is afraid of having their hair washed, during non-bath times, play a game of “hair washing” or “bath time” with your child. When it is their turn to wash your hair during this game, turn the tables around and pretend that you are terrified of bath time or having your hair washed. This puts them in “control” of the situation and allows your child to console you.
- After you play pretend hair washing, you can have them really wash your hair in the bath.
- When they are in the bath, take the shower head off and let them hold it to spray the walls or fill cups of water.
- Find some fun bath activities that will help restore their love for the bath
In the beginning, plan to keep bath time really short until they have gotten used to it again. If they are having fun and have overcome their fears, let them stay in longer!
Don’t push it too much
Little children do not tend to need baths every day. If you need to, give them a wipe down in between bath days so that you can spend the other days working with them to build their confidence in bath time again. However, if you are taking really small and slower steps, there may be times where you either have to do a sponge bath, wash their hair in the sink or jump in the lake and do an “out of the box” bath.
You may see some great big emotions come out with this fear around the bath. Validating, comforting and supporting your little one through will guarantee that your child overcomes their fear. Allowing your child the opportunity to offload those emotions will be so important during this difficult time (for all of you) so be prepared, know that there will be some upset. Have a plan on how you are going to support them through their bathtime fears. If it becomes too much for you, reach out for help and Restful Parenting will create an easy to follow plan that will allow bath time to become fun time again!