That’s the first thing on any parent’s mind as far as their children are concerned.
Ask any discerning parent out there, and they’ll all agree that all they want to do is to keep their children as safe and sound as possible. But, of course, as parents, you’ll find that there will be plenty of situations in life as your child grows up where you have no choice but to let go and let loose. However, when it comes to public restrooms, exceptions will have to be made.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited children agrees with this as well.
Prepubescent children, in particular, need proper adult supervision at all times. As much as they may insist that they’re “old” enough already, children of these ages have yet to develop the same protective instincts that older children and adults possess. Their view of the world is very different. They still fully cannot comprehend the potential dangers that interacting with a stranger can bring. Nor do they have the necessary judgement yet to know just exactly what would happen to them if they slipped while trying to climb on top of the sink.
There are other valid concerns too.
Take for example, hygiene. Who’s to say that the facility is clean? If parents aren’t allowed to go inside the bathrooms, especially moms with their sons, how can they check if the stalls or sink is clean? How will they know if the floor is slippery or dirty?
Mind you, we’re still talking about going to public restrooms with one child here. What happens if another minor is involved? What happens if it’s the other gender and the little boy/girl has to use a separate restroom? What if it’s a baby that needs a diaper change? Should moms be forced to leave their younger sons outside on their own?
The truth is, going to the public restroom as a parent with kids can be a bit of a dilemma.
Using Unisex or Family Restrooms
Thankfully, the government and public establishments are starting to take notice of this issue.
More and more public establishments, especially newer ones or those that have recently gone under rennovation, are starting to opt towards using unisex and/or family restrooms instead of single-gender restrooms. Not to mention, laws and regulations concerning public establishments are starting to change as well. In some states, public establishments with more than six toilets are legally required to have at least one family restroom.
So, if you find yourself having to use a public restroom with your child, there’s a huge chance that the establishment will have either a family restroom or a unisex restroom if not both.
Unfortunately, even with this sentiment having gone viral and become a valid concern among many parents, there are still older establishments who choose to stick to the public bathroom setting, which can present an issue.
Toddlers usually get a “pass” when they’re brought by their parents with them inside the ladies’ or mens room. But, for older prepubescent children, parents will have a hard time. They’re either forced to let their children go inside the public restroom by themselves, or their children will have to wait outside while they use the restroom. Some establishments even go as far as to set a limit up to what age a child can only go to a gender-appropriate restroom.
Public Restroom Safety and Hygiene Tips for Kids and Parents
Since you really have no control if and whether or not a public establishment will have a family or unisex restroom, all you can really do is to prepare yourself and your children when they have to go to public restrooms alone.
Here are some tips that should help ease some of your concerns regarding your child’s safety and hygiene.
- Teach your children to be mindful of their surroundings. If the restroom is too dirty, it might be a better idea to go somewhere else instead.
- Before sending your child in to use a public restroom on their own, try to see if you can ask for assistance from an employee of the establishment, preferably that of the same gender. If you’re going to be the one who’s going inside to use the restroom, you can try to ask the security guard if it’s okay to leave your child with them for a moment. Never ever ask or accept help from well-meaning strangers
- Remind small boys to use stalls when possible, even if there is a urinal available, and to take care to lock the door once inside. Properly installed bathroom partitions should have a locking bolt that slides completely through the receiver to secure the door from being opened. Also, instruct your child that in no way should they interact with a stranger while inside the restroom. Let them know that it’s okay for them to run, or shout and call out other people’s attention if a stranger is, in any way, making them feel uncomfortable either by getting too close to them or by insisting on talking to them.
- Be cautious of restrooms with multiple entrances. There is a very real possibility of your child getting lost and going to the other entrance while inside. Not to mention, there’s also the risk of you not knowing who’s going inside the restroom while your child is inside.
- While waiting outside the restroom for your child, make eye contact with the people entering the restroom. Greet them if you can. People with malicious intent are less likely to proceed with their crimes if someone remembers their face.
- If you can go inside and stand by the door, that’s even better. Don’t be afraid to call out to your child and talk to them while they’re inside the toilet partitions. Something as simple as asking them if they need help or reminding them to wash their hands may be enough to create awareness that the child’s parent is keeping tabs on them.
- Try to see if you can practice letting your child use the restroom at home on their own, as if simulating a public restroom. Although your home is a controlled environment and a safe setting, running your child through the process at home may make them feel more ready and alert when the time comes that they’ll have to use a public restroom without your guidance. If nothing else, this may help ease the possible separation anxiety that your child may experience in a public restroom.
Keeping Your Child Safe in a Public Restroom
Hopefully, there will come a time when parents won’t have to leave their children outside to use the restroom, or have to worry if whether or not their children are safe while they go inside the toilet partitions on their own.
Until then, all we can do as parents is to practice safety and take precaution at all times.
Remember, predators can come from anywhere and all walks of life.
If you’re having a hard time getting your child to understand this, you can compare it to the safety drills that they do regularly in school. This way, it becomes something relatable for them, and they’ll know that the reason why you’re doing this is because it happens all of the time, but rather, so that they’ll know what to do if in case they find themselves in the said situation.