My two-year-old son has just developed a fear of bathtime, part of his routine that he used to absolutely love. He now absolutely loathes the prospect, and screams and cries while he’s in the bath. All we can think is that it’s possibly the plug and that he thinks he might follow the water down there, but he is too young to explain why it’s bothering him so much.
What should we do?
It’s very common for toddlers to develop a fear of bathtime, even if previously they have happily enjoyed the experience on a daily basis.
As your baby transitions to becoming a toddler there is so much going on that they are learning and trying to understand, that fears are normal and it is your reaction to them that paves the way to whether they continue or are just a stage they go through and come out the other side happily.
You have to respect her fear in order to understand it and help her overcome it-don’t try to brush it away and force her into the bath against her will as that will just reinforce her fear that bath time no longer is a happy experience.
Fears over bath time can sometimes develop due to a distressing incident during one particular bath experience like water or shampoo getting in their eyes during hair washing, slipping in the bath and their head going under or even not liking the noise the bath makes.
Sometimes even a funny comment by a parent meant as a joke can also prey on a toddlers mind and mean they are reluctant to go in the bath next time.
It is important to try and nip any fears in the bud fairly quickly with reassurance and confidence in your voice before they become a daily battle of bath refusal, which will only make the fear worse and more challenging to break.
Initially though, it won’t be the end of the world for your toddler to have a wash each night rather than a bath if they are really distressed.
Below are some tips to help you get back to enjoying happier bath time experiences again:
*Water play outside or just encouraging her to wash some of her toys in the sink or bath will remind her that water play is fun.
*Sometimes the easiest way to help alleviate any fears is to have a bath with your toddler for a few days in a row, so that your presence in the bath can actually reassure her.
As she gains confidence you can begin to get out 5 minutes before her and start to dry yourself and chat to her as she plays happily after you have got out.
*Buying some new bath toys that she has a chance to choose at the shops to get the fun back can also be exciting, which will naturally help her overcome the fear
*You should have confidence and praise in your voice during bathtime and make the whole experience lots of fun so that she remembers that she has nothing to worry about
*Once you feel she is ready to begin to bath alone then only put a shallow amount of water in to begin with so that she doesn’t feel overwhelmed
*After the bath I would also then talk briefly about it and remind her that nothing bad happened, praise her for how clever she is and also how much fun she had in the bath.
If you combine all of the above then your little one should soon be enjoying bath time again, as they had previously.
By Lisa Clegg
Author of The Blissful Baby Expert book and The Blissful Toddler Expert