As if potty training isn’t hard enough, there is also the challenge of having your child go to the washroom in public. Many children have increased anxiety when it comes to using a public restroom. There are several reasons that might cause your child to display this anxiety resulting in avoidance of using the bathroom. Below are some tips to help reduce your child’s anxiety and encourage them to use public restrooms.
Ways to Encourage Children To Change Behavior And Use Public Restrooms
Talk About It!
Address the problem that your child is having. Take the time to figure out why your child is having difficulties using public restrooms. Some possible things that might cause your child to be anxious are:
- The toilet is different than the one at home
- The toilet flushes differently (automatic vs. manual flush)
- The water in the toilet bowl might be a different color (some places use the cleaners that make the water dark blue or even a green color)
- The lighting in the restroom
- The sounds fans make
- The noises of the automatic air fresheners,
- The germs – Yes, germs! You are probably thinking that kids aren’t concerned about germs, but that is actually not always the case.
Start talking to your child to identify what items in the restroom are causing their anxiety. If your child has difficulties saying exactly what bothers him or her about public restrooms, take field trips. When out and about in the community go into different restrooms and ask your child to tell you what it is that makes him or her uncomfortable.
Brainstorm Solutions and Try Them!
Try to come up with different solutions to help your child feel more at ease when using public restrooms. If certain noises in the restroom bother your child, let him use headphones or hold his ears to listen the noise. If he is scared about germs, put toilet paper on the seat before he uses it. Let him know that toilets will be different, but that does not make them scary. Look at different toilets on the Internet and talk about them.
Create Positive Potty Time Stories!
Once you identify the problems and come up with solutions that make your child more comfortable to use the restroom, sit down and write a story together. Be sure to have your child help with this story as much as possible. Write out the things that scare him and then add the different things that help him calm down. The story should be used before going out to the community and can even be used right before the child needs to use the restroom as a reminder of what they will encounter.
When your child uses a public restroom, be sure to praise them. You want to make a big deal about this great accomplishment so that it will be more likely to happen again. Be sure to provide plenty of verbal praise, “Great job of using the bathroom! You are such a big girl/boy!”, “I knew you could do it! See, there was nothing to be scared of!”.When your child first starts using the public restroom, you can also give them little rewards. For example, if you are at his/her favorite restaurant he/she can pick an extra treat, at the toy store your child can pick out a new toy, or at the grocery store he/she can choose a favorite candy bar. These treats should not last forever but should be given heavily in the beginning and then sporadically, eventually completely fading out.
Listed below are some books that can help when potty training:
- It Hurts When I Poop!: A Story for Children Who Are Scared to Use the Potty –By: Howard J. Bennet
- Where’s the Poop? – By: Julie Markes & Susan Kathleen Hartung
- Everyone Poops (My Body Science Series) – By: Taro Gomi
- My Potty Reward Stickers for Boys: 126 Boy Potty Training Stickers and Chart to Motivate Toilet Training – By: Tracy Foote