Kids and public restrooms

Remember the yearly discussions about what to do about Santa? I took them over to the Christmas site. Last week it was what you tell your kids about Santa, and this week is how to deal with your child's belief in Santa ending.

Today's question is from Andrea, who writes:

"How do you handle it when you are out with your boys and they need to use the washroom? Or you do? My 5-year-old son recognizes the Men and Women symbols and sometimes refuses to go into the bathroom with me. Obviously I do not want him going to the men's bathroom without me. Equally obvious is that I do not want to go into the men's bathroom either…."

My kids are old enough, and there are two of them, for me to send them into a public restroom together. I'm still standing right outside the door, talking to them the whole time, but they know they have to stick together. Since they're usually punching each other the entire time they're in the restroom, it's easy to keep track of them and know that they're not being approached by anyone.

But it's harder when you only have one. And when that one is young enough that you don't want to go into WHY you are apprehensive about their being alone in the men's restroom.

The trick I have heard (and used when my older one was going into restrooms alone when his brother wasn't) is to have your child count or sing a song the entire time they're in the bathroom. You can stand outside and listen to the counting or the song, and if the child stops you can rush in.

Does anyone have other ideas? This is a headscratcher, but is time-delineated, so at least there's that.

68 thoughts on “Kids and public restrooms”

  1. When my son was younger, I gave him 2 minutes after which I was coming in one way or the other. I would announce my plans to walk in and then barge into the men’s room, ready or not. I remember the first time I sent him in alone. I was so panicked I actually told him to bother washing his hands–just go and come straight back to me. Hope I didn’t set a precedent with him….

  2. OMG, I never considered this! My son is not even 2 so we’re not there yet, but now I’ll have a new thing to worry about. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. I’ve wondered about this myself so many times. My son is almost six and he is still okay with going to the ladies room with me, but sometimes we get looks . . .

  4. My son is almost 5 and I honestly haven’t thought twice about him going with me into the women’s restroom. I can’t see myself going in the men’s restroom with him and I think its more acceptable for children to be in a womens restroom anyway.

  5. My son is 6 and I still have him come in with me to the ladies room if we are out alone…no ifs, ands, or buts about it. He might protest but I am more concerned about his safety.

  6. My three year old goes in with me. If he wanted to go into the mens room without me, I would let him. “use the restroom, remember to flush the toilet, wash your hands, and if anyone “approaches” you yell REALLY loud”. Honestly, I am more worried about him getting hit by a car then about being molested in a mens room. The way I am going to keep him safe is by teaching him to use his words and trust his instincts, not by keeping him glued to my side at all times.

  7. If there was no family restroom, I’d let the 6 year old go by himself. My daughter is 4 and I left her use the restroom on her own as long as its in my line of sight – she’s really into her independence ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. My 6-year old often still accompanies me into the ladies’ room, but he does use the men’s room when it’s a single-stall lock the door restroom or in low-traffic areas (like the library during the week…I stake it out for a while to see whether anyone is in there or at the park where I can hear him the entire time).At what age is it no longer appropriate for a boy in a ladies’ room? And are there different ‘rules’ at O’Hare Airport versus my local store?
    (Incidentally, I don’t see any issues with the ladies’ room…we have stalls. It’s private. I’ve even seen developmentally challenged adult men in the ladies’ room with their mothers/caregivers and have had no issues with it.)

  9. I’m with Rachel here, though since I only have a daughter we’re talking ladies’ room rather than men’s room which at least stereotypically is different… But with a 7-year-old it depends on where and the size of the restroom. A nice restaurant with a 1-2 stall bathroom I’m totally staying at the table. At the park or big movie theater, I’ll send her with a friend but not totally on her own. I never go into the stall with her anymore – I just wait by the sink or outside the door

  10. Like the other child, my 5yo has noticed he is going to the women’s room and asked why. At this point, he still has some trouble reaching faucets/soap/towels, etc., so he comes to the restroom with me. We have agreed that when he’s ready (i.e., fully capable of operating the bathroom equipment independently), then he can use the men’s room if he likes.If he was taking an unusually long time, I’d have no issue going in to check, but honestly, I think the ACTUAL, statistical likelihood of children being approached by a molester in a public restroom is pretty darn low. I couldn’t find *any* stats on this with a quick google, which (to me) serves as a confirmation of my initial impression that it’s highly unlikely to be an issue.
    For the record, I also have no issue with parents bringing older, opposite-sex children into the restroom as long as they don’t try to peek in my stall!

  11. Once they’re in school, they use the bathroom on the own every day. I let a lot of the it-has-to-be-with-me stuff go once my kids started elementary school.I dunno what the solution is. “Don’t worry” seems flip, but that’s about the best I’ve got.
    I’ll repeat my broken-record recommendation to read Gavin deBecker’s Protecting The Gift. This book is chock full of tips, ideas and good reasons to teach your kids how to be safe on their own.

  12. If Liam (4) is only with me, he goes into the women’s room with me. He gets his own stall, but I am either in the one next to him or standing at the sinks while he goes. If both dad and I are there, he gets his choice of where he wants to go. He’s about 50/50 on which he wants to go to.I honestly don’t know yet when I will be comfortable with letting him go alone to the men’s room.

  13. I used the church bathrooms as practice. Not that bad things can’t happen in a church bathroom, but my kids would know many of the people there at least. I asked them to use the stall if it was available. They wanted to know why and I told them that if anyone ever seemed to be watching their privates at a urinal to tell me about it. If they ever feel uncomfortable with someone in the bathroom, to come out immediately. I wanted them to learn to trust themselves and their gut feelings.After a few years at church (ages 3-5?) we started letting them into other bathrooms. I took my 7 yo into an airport bathroom with me however and was complimented on my parenting while I was in there. The woman (rightly) pointed out that my job is to keep them safe, not to make other restroom patrons pleased and not to always make my children happy.

  14. Re: Sarcasticarrie and different rules – I think there are but in the way of which restrooms my 5 year old can go into alone. Low traffic, single-use, I can see everyone going in/out are okay, otherwise he comes with me. Airports, stadiums, large public areas generally – not until older. I also put libraries into that category. We have a fantastic public library but anyone can and does go to the library – have to be older than my boys are to go in by yourself. And also, I second (third?) what Rachel said. At some point they will have to do this so better to prepare them.

  15. My concerns about sending my 4 year-old son to the bathroom alone are more practical than fearful – he’s not tall enough for most urinals, and I’m not sure he’d be able to successfully lock/unlock a bathroom stall by himself. (A fellow pre-k mom recently had the unpleasant experience of having to crawl under the bathroom door at school after her daughter had locked herself in and couldn’t figure out how to undo the latch!)I think moms with boys have it easier in this regard than dads with girls – a boy in the womens’ room isn’t going to see anything inappropriate because everything happens behind closed doors. A dad taking his 4-year old daughter into the men’s room is much more awkward.

  16. I still bring my five-year-old in with me, because he has a habit of locking the stall doors from the inside and then crawling out and I need to be there to send him back in to unlock them.If not for that, however, I would have zero problem sending him into the men’s room alone. I trust most strangers, and the chances of an untrustworthy stranger being in the bathroom at the exact same second as my son are about seven hundred million to one. (I might be less carefree about this at, say, a public bathroom at a creepy rest area on the highway, but I don’t often find myself at those.)

  17. I had my son go with me in the ladies room, especially someplace like an airport, until he was 6 or 7 at least. Women in the restroom were always very understanding, and frankly if they weren’t then too bad. As he was older I would stand with my foot in the doorway holding the men’s room door open so I could talk to/hear him the whole time. The bigger problem was when my daughter was with my husband because taking her into a men’s room…no way!

  18. My mother used to stand by the restroom door with her foot in the doorway so they couldn’t be approached by anyone without her knowing and she could hear everything when my older brothers were little. I have an almost 4 year old and will probably do the same when he starts to refuse going into the ladies room with me. For now he’s content to go with me and I’m grateful. I much too suspicious of other people and tend to be very watchful.

  19. Like @Jessica and @Janet say, the bigger issue for us right now is my husband taking my 4.5 year old into the mens room. He started to become uncomfortable about this when she was 3, mainly because of the urinals not having stalls. Luckily, most places he goes he is either with me too or there are family bathrooms.

  20. But what is the solution (anyone?) for the issue of dads with girls? We have two girls, and often I take them to the bathroom, but sometimes? Sometimes I want to sit and finish my coffee and let him take them. Sigh. Or realistically, I’m not always there. At what point should a man not take his daughters with him into the men’s room? My daughter is 3.5, and I can’t see her going into a public bathroom by herself and still being able to reach the sinks, etc. ok.

  21. I would either use the family washroom (if there is one) or give him some tools to make you feel better. Act out what to do in the washroom. Practice it a few times at home. What should he do if he needs help (look for someone with kids! or ask someone (from the stall) to go get you)? The truth is, there are WAY more people in the world (men included) who would genuinely help a child if they are in trouble than those who want to harm a child. Also, if you’re outside the door, not much can happen because either you’ve seen the men that are going in or you can see that there are lots going in and typically assaults don’t happen in busy places. We live in a world that is much too scared about things. If you show confidence in him, he will be confident in himself and that in itself will make him less likely to be victimized. It’s much easier to world-proof your child than child-proof their world. My mom used this CD set (tape at the time…) to teach us about personal safety. I got it for Mady (well, the first one for now) and she loves it.http://www.britemusic.com/brite-sets/safety-kids/
    Another great book for perspective is Free-Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy. It’s fabulous about getting parents to shift their thinking to empowering kids.

  22. Been there. My son is 8, and my daughter is 5. So we frequently find ourselves in situations like this.Often I’ll let him go in the men’s room on his own, if I trust the environment. I always stand right outside the door and talk with him continually.
    If I’m skeeved out for any reason by the men’s bathroom or the environs or the people around…I tell my boy he’s coming with me. I make sure the women’s bathroom is clear (if possible), then we hurry in. We use the biggest stall, so we can be in there together, and he knows I’ve got his back and that no females will give him any crap about it. Then we hurry out. We skip the sinks and wash our hands with the sanitizer I’ve always got in my bag.
    Best solution I’ve got. My kid’s safety is more important than the potential stinkeye we might get from others.

  23. I asked my husband (our oldest daughter is 3.5) and he said taking her into the men’s room is a non-issue. He said it’s not like guys are standing around showing other people their penises. As a family, we are very comfortable with nudity and our girls are just as likely to follow their dad into the bathroom as they are to follow me (which, as any parent knows, is any time, all the time). He showers with them, too, no big deal. We both agree, whoopideedo, she might get a glimpse of a stranger’s penis. Not the biggest deal to ever happen. Not even a deal at all, really.I guess at seven or eight I’d be okay sending my kids to the bathroom alone? I don’t know, they are not old enough to use the facilities by themselves yet. A five-year-old, I think I’d make him or her still come with me just because I can think of all the other ways s/he could get into trouble, such as pants problems, stall problems, no tp, etc. At least then I would be right there, able to help them.

  24. This hasn’t become an issue for me (my son is more glued to my side than, you know, not), but I’m pretty much with Rachel. That said, in theory once he’s 5 — which is not that far off — I’m either supposed to start using the “family” changing rooms at the swimming pool we frequent or to send him to the men’s room. I’m not overly concerned about his safety but I am concerned about his focus — or lack thereof — and my schedule, so we’ll see how that goes. People at the pool I go to are generally pretty good about helping parents with opposite-sex kids who fail to emerge in a timely manner from the changing room, i.e., going in and telling the kid, “Your mom/dad is getting impatient.”I’m a mom with a son, but for dads with daughters (or moms of dads with daughters), is it not prudish enough simply to teach girls that one averts one’s eyes from men standing at urinals (or bushes in “that” pose — is everyone else here so urban that this is a non-issue? Because it’s not in my life.) and (as in a ladies room) uses a stall oneself? As a college freshman I lived in a female dorm whose construction predated the college being co-ed, and it wasn’t uncommon to find male students (gentlemen callers?) using the urinals that remained in our (group) bathroom on weekend nights (and mornings). Seems to me that averting one’s eyes is just one of those useful life skills we all need to learn?

  25. I’m mostly with SarcastiCarrie on this one โ€” my son is not quite seven, and while he hates to use the womens I force the issue if there is not a single bathroom with a locking door. Airports I think were the biggest hassle, and I am grateful for family bathrooms when they are provided.

  26. My 4 year old started refusing to go into the ladies a few months before his birthday. So, he always goes to the men’s room solo. If he’s taking a while, I give him a shout, “how you doing in there, kiddo?” and he usually just tells me what stage he’s at, “I’m peeing!”, for example.I agree with @Melanna: there are far more nice folks in the world than predators. In fact, predators are a tiny, tiny minority of the people you are likely to encounter, if ever, in a lifetime.
    It’s pretty funny, tho, when my guy has a problem getting his pants back on and walks out with his undies up but his jeans around his knees and I have to get him sorted out kneeling in front of the men’s room doorway :/

  27. I think (as a 16 week pregnant mother with a 1 year old and both boys) that you do what you’re comfortable with when you’re comfortable with it. If that’s 3 – ok. If that’s 6 – ok.I think it greatly depends on where you live, where you’re at, etc. I’d be incredibly nervous at an airport bathroom versus a library bathroom.
    I wonder if instead of teaching them men and women – you just say dad’s and mom’s. I mean you have to do what works when it works, right?
    While I agree with posters that the risk of being molested is low – I think the risk of being in a “weird” situation is not low. My little brother was not molested in a bathroom but he was approached and scared. And to this day hates public restrooms. He’s an adult now.
    I think its also important to think about the logistics of getting in and out of the bathroom without finding yourself locked in! ๐Ÿ™‚
    BUT – you do whatever works for you and if its not what works for someone else – That’s their problem! Good Luck mama!

  28. @Charisse — haha, oh phew, it’s good to know that’s something we suburban (and rural) dwellers can share with the urbanites %|!

  29. As for daughters and dads- When hubby takes our 6 yr old DD out, he waits just outside the restroom. She is capable of taking care of everything by herself, but has been instructed to ask “a mom with kids” if she ever needs help. Moms are always happy to help another kid and very unlikely to be a psycho child molester. This theory might work for “dads with kids” in the men’s room.

  30. Ha. DS’ (almost 3.5) daycare teacher just told me tonight that after DS told her today that he had to go pee (bathroom is down the hall), and then nothing happened, he promptly told her ‘But I need someone to go with me’. So, um, I suspect it’ll be a bit before he wants to go to a multi stall men’s room alone. I’m all for independence when he’s ready and has the skills. But right now we’re more focused on how to deal with loud flushing toilets, and him being able to pull up his own undies & pants. Not to mention he’s usually too short to reach the sink.

  31. I can’t stand it when parents send 5-8 year old boys into the women’s room without a parent. That kills me. And I generally think that fearing the random molester in the bathroom is silly. Fear your soccer coach, pastor, brother in law. Use your good sense, but be realistic.

  32. I have a 7 year old son and a 5 year old daughter. Other than in an extremely familiar setting, I take them into the women’s room with me and my husband takes them into the men’s room.I really do not care if my kids see a penis. However, I do find it utterly annoying if a woman is upset that my son is in the woman’s bathroom. The only time a woman is unclothed is behind a stall, where she is never seen. To me, getting upset over an accompanied male child in the women’s room is absolutely ridiculous and frankly scary.

  33. For me, 1st grade always seemed to be the tipping point. I’ll always wait outside the door but I never thought about talking to them other than the occasional yelled in status check. We rarely go places that are so large my crowds sensor would be tripped to allow my son to go into the larger restrooms by himself, like an airport or theme park.My middle kid I always send with her older sister because she honestly does not have the sense that god gave a duck and takes forever because she’ll get distracted by something like a gum dispenser or the paper towels and end up in there way longer than needed.

  34. My oldest (I’m the nanny) is nearly 5, and we had this problem too, but I said that the gender was for the adults and that children go with their adult. We live in a big city and he’s a dawdler, so it simply doesn’t seem like a great idea to send him in alone yet. I don’t think it’s necessary to get into the nitty gritty fears that fueled the decision. He knows that we stick together for “safety” and if he delves deeper I ask him why does he think I want us to all go together. He usually comes up with something pretty reasonable and drops it.

  35. I’m amused by those who say they’d send their kids into a library bathroom alone, but not an airport one. Our local library is in a suitably enough sketchy (but trendy) ‘hood that the bathroom lights are blue to deter junkies from shooting up! Meanwhile, airports are tight with security and cameras everywhere.My 4 yr boy twins are still pretty content to go to the women’s bathroom. And although I’ve mentioned what I think are adequate safety things to them, I’m not yet drilling them about yelling if someone approaches them (although since they shriek if someone tries to take their photo, I don’t think I have to worry about them keeping quiet).
    Might those warnings instill more fear into them than necessary? I still haven’t sorted out how I’d explain why one has to distrust certain people, but then they’re not yet in situations where they’re alone in public places. As a girl I was so frequently made aware of the (smallish) possibility of being molested that I couldn’t walk down a street without having fearful thoughts cross my mind. Didn’t stop me from doing things on my own, but I don’t want my kids to be default fearful. How to make them street-wise but confident?

  36. I get that there are practical conundrums to consider here, but the safety issue part of it doesn’t even register on my radar. The vast, vast majority of crimes are perpetrated on children by someone they know, not a stranger. Crime is actually lower now than it’s been in years.We hear more about kidnappings, molestations and the like because those stories are the most sensational, and that’s what makes the news. As a PP wrote, read “Protecting the Gift”. Also, http://freerangekids.wordpress.com/ has been a good reality check for me.

  37. My only child is a girl, so no concerns against going in for me and most larger UK places ( certainly in London where we live) have a “disabled toilet”, so a larger single cubicle for my husband or myself to use with her. She’s nearly four.We still have a step and insert seat thing for her though to feel secure. And she has a hand dryer phobia. She’s nearly four. Also we need to check she has actually used the toilet, gone so to speak.
    She’s in regression after only training at 3.5. At preschool they go alone if the teacher trusts them and she sweetly flushed and washed her hands, and then a sore tummy from distended bladder and huge accidental puddle on the way home. In busy locations.
    The school now have the same insert seat for security and check and she goes.
    I’m sure the regression will end and she’ll be using toilets anywhere without me long before she goes to university.
    I do think for boys mother standing by the door and talking works very well for the male toilets. I see mothers do that all the time and nobody minds.

  38. My nearly 7 year old boy hasn’t posed any resitence as of yet to coming into the Ladies’ with me and DD, almost 5. We also do the disabled toilets quite a lot. I have sent him in to the Men’s on occasion when there is a single stall ( say at a park) with me outside, but he has often come out saying it was too dirty ( and stinky) to go in. He prefers a tree in that case.I still wouldn’t send him into a busy big public loo, like at the airport or a shopping centre by himself. I guess it’s just a case of my biting the bullet on that one and just letting him grow up.

  39. Agreed with meggiemoo, Rachel, and Becky among others about the bathroom child snatcher/molester fears.My son is 4 and a half and I wouldn’t send him in on his own, though, because of the focus and logistical issues mentioned by others. (For that reason I would differentiate the stereotypical library bathroom from the airport bathroom just because the latter are so large and busy compared to a smaller place.) I’d be comfortable bringing him in to the ladies’ for a couple of years yet. Once he’s old enough to get in, do what needs to be done, and get out again, then he can go in to the men’s on his own.
    I hadn’t thought about the different issues that arise with a father bringing his daughter in. Mine is too young for that to have been an issue. In theory I don’t have a problem with the urinal setup but I can imagine that it might be weird for a young girl and/or the guys who are trying to have a whizz in peace.
    Seems like a lot of institutions offer unisex or family bathrooms more and more and it’s so nice when they’re available, especially if you’re one parent trying to corral multiple young kids. But of course that’s still the minority.
    (On a tangent–When my kids were babies and, especially, toddlers, I had trouble just figuring out how to take a pee when I was on my own. Nothing worse than struggling with an active child who wants to crawl around on a skanky floor, while trying to pull up your pants. Once in a blue moon I’d see those child seats that fold down from the wall, but even then they usually had broken straps or didn’t work.)

  40. Yes, on the not-being-paranoid front. But I noticed everyone seems to be answering this question as though it’s only the children who need to go to the bathroom. I go out in public with my kids (boys) and I occasionally need to pee also. While I can imagine sending my 3 y.o. into the bathroom alone once he’s older (he also has a hand dryer and public-toilet-flushing phobia – they’re both too loud and scare him), I canNOT imagine saying, okay, honey, stand here in the hallway of this pubic place while I go to the bathroom.Frankly, I think the whole issue of different sex children in the bathroom is absurd and can’t quite believe it’s a real issue, especially in a women’s room where there are only stalls. What’s the fear? That someone’s eight year old might accidentally see something? The odds of that are almost none. So when I need to go, the boys are coming with me until they’re pretty old.

  41. I’ve only been able to go to the loo when out alone when I could still strap the baby into her pushchair, and then a long, long break until my daughter could use her seat- and step-affair, so only recently. And she’s got some handle now on the tantrums. She had none whatever beween 14 months and three and a half.For the same reasons as L. mentioned she couldn’t do toilets . She’s scared of hand-dryers and flushing as I said and would throw a horrendous tantrum and do the flat-on-the-corridor floor sweeping routine in the corridor before the toilets. I never got as far as the stall.So she couldn’t crawl out but she would have. You need to relax to wee and well, relaxed I wasn’t.
    I just didn’t drink. And it strengthened my poor old pelvic floor back to full function. Or for a longer outing only if out with DH or with a friend to take turns.
    But with the tantrums and the spirited DD would never last more than 60-90 minutes on any solo foray before melt down so it was easy to just curtain fluid intake on my part.
    I think that as she gets older she can wait outside the cubicle door in the toilets because she’s a girl. Harder with a boy, but I have seen boys waiting for mum near the entrance, near the sinks. I don’t think any woman is going to faint over a little boy waiting.

  42. This post reminds me of something that happened to me in a clothing store once. I was trying on clothes in a dressing room when a little boy (probably around 3 or 4) poked his head under my door and checked me out. Apparently, he was looking under each door. I was annoyed then, but would probably crack up if it happened now.

  43. If US Senators are foot tapping in men’s restrooms, I’d say they are still a less than desirable place to send a youngish male alone.Mine is only 4 and wants me to stand outside the stall already but since I am still wiping his butt, I imagine it’s a ways out before he goes in a bathroom completely alone in public.

  44. I still take mine in with me and they will soon be 7. I tell them that the reason we have to go in the Ladies’ room is that I can’t go in the men’s but they can come with me because they are still little boys. They accept that.In places where there is only one, I send them in alone and tell them to lock the door, then I keep an eye on it from wherever I am (restaurant table, etc.) Works pretty well. My husband sends them into the men’s room alone, but then again, he can feel free to walk in there if he has the slightest suspicion of a problem.

  45. I absolutely agree w/ those commenters who’ve noted that most sexual molesters aren’t waiting to pounce in the men’s bathroom. They’re people the kids already know and interact with.My son’s five and I send him in the men’s bathroom alone with no problem. We’ve never had any type of issue except me wondering how thoroughly he’s washed his hands. He’s gone at rest stops, restaurants, campgrounds, department stores etc.
    For commenters who are still worried about 5- 6- and 7-year-old boys using the men’s bathroom alone, it’s worth considering where the fear comes from. Check out freerangekids.com for some conversation on the subject.

  46. Funny, we just got back from a trip to DC and this happened a lot – my six year old son will not go into the women’s room (I do think 1st grade is a bit of a social tipping point, at which he is now somewhat embarrassed by going into the women’s bathroom). Often on our trip I was going into the women’s room with his three year old sister. I told him to meet me right back outside the restroom. After I went (quickly!) I kept checking outside for him if my daughter is taking her time… he’s generally pretty quick. I basically talked to him while propping open the door (inside the ladies room so I can hear my daughter).

  47. Okay I just picked up more work at my church and added a new blog to my life. I may be really busy the rest of this month sorting this out but at least I’m trying new things right?!? My schedule is also almost booked up right now for wedding clients so grab the spots while you can!

  48. Cassie, that story is tragic. A three year old? Of course not. Are you implying that the aunt in that story was remiss in letting a nine year old go to the bathroom by himself though, really?COULD you run into an unbalanced sociopath in the bathroom? Sure. Are you LIKELY to run into an unbalanced sociopath in the bathroom? No.
    Protecting the Gift. Seriously.
    By the way: could the exact same thing have happened with a parent standing two feel away? Yes.

  49. I think it would be lovely if we could avoid tragic fatal rare events by avoiding the places were such incidents take place. But they happen in so many locations that no normal life would be possible.We will most of us avoid them, and so will our children because they are so rare. But there isn’t anything the aunt in the story could have avoided the tragic outcome.
    And no, I wouldn’t let my three year old go alone into the toilets, but a nine year old, well, yes. This boy was terribly unlucky.

  50. I agree that the risk of something bad happening to a child in a public restroom is low . . . but I still think it’s a good idea to be safe about it, without making it a big deal. A parent with a foot in the door inquiring after the child is a deterrent. Perhaps that sort of thing is one reason the risk is now low.I mean, the risk of being hit by a car on certain streets is low, but you still look both ways before you cross.
    Also, if your main concern is helping your child to wash his/her hands, please consider carrying hand sanitizer. After two back surgeries, I can’t lift my child to the sink. Hand sanitizer is a godsend and a backsaver.

  51. This is not something that I have even thought about. My oldest is 5 and he doesn’t have a choice. He will go into the women’s restroom with me whether he likes it or not. I have had some bad looks by people but I would rather experience that than something happening to my child. I will do the same with my youngest boy when he reaches that age.

  52. I think real little children can pretty much be considered “sexless/gender neutral” when being taken to the restroom. Mentally, anyway. That is, until they understand the differences between the sexes or that they’re in the “other” restroom, it’s acceptable to take them.

  53. Funny, we just got back from a trip to DC and this happened a lot – my six year old son will not go into the women’s room (I do think 1st grade is a bit of a social tipping point, at which he is now somewhat embarrassed by going into the women’s bathroom). Often on our trip I was going into the women’s room with his three year old sister. I told him to meet me right back outside the restroom. After I went (quickly!) I kept checking outside for him if my daughter is taking her time… he’s generally pretty quick. I basically talked to him while propping open the door (inside the ladies room so I can hear my daughter).

  54. I am a bits shocked by @Liz complaining about people taking boys in to ladies toilets. Seriously? I couldn’t care less. The door is locked while I use the loo and should I be embarassed by him seeing me wash my hands. My son comes with me end of story. And heaven help anyone who challenges that. The world is generally full of good people but I would not want to relax so much with a little one and live to regret ithttp://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1370807/McDonalds-sex-attacker-Simon-Archer-jailed.html
    That is worth reading. Ok a one off but none the less it’s happened.

  55. I haven’t read all the comments, so I don’t know if anyone else made this point, but they’re called the “men’s restroom” and “ladies’ room” or “women’s restroom” NOT boys’ restroom and girls’ restroom. Anyone who wants to take their kid into the opposite sex restroom for safety could maybe make this argument to the kid who notices and complains about going into the opposite sex restroom: The men’s restroom is not for boys, it’s for men — either to go in themselves or to take their boys in, and likewise the women’s restroom is for women to go in or take their boys to go to the bathroom in … he can go in the men’s restroom alone when he’s old enough.

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