A mother is worried about sending her young son to the men’s changing rooms and toilets alone. Can she be reassured? Do you have any advice to share in this week’s A Problem Shared?
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I’m a single mum to a 7-year-old boy. I’m used to taking him into female public toilets with me when we are out and about but I have now noticed signs that say boys above the age of 7 are not allowed in the ladies’ loos. I feel apprehensive about him going to the male public toilets alone, mainly because there are strangers and I worry about what might go on in there.
It’s the same situation when I take him swimming and we have to change and shower. I can’t imagine sending him off to the men’s and expecting him to wash, dry and dress on his own. How can I be sure nobody is “interfering” with him? Any advice? What is the right thing to do? Am I being too paranoid?
Our FamilyPoint advice
Hi. Thanks for getting in touch with us here at FamilyPoint. I can sense your concern and it is completely understandable.
There really is no right or wrong answer. All of our children are different. They all have different maturity levels and needs. I don’t think there is a clear-cut answer to your question.
Trust your gut instinct
There are also different places with public toilets. You might feel more comfortable with some more than others and are OK with letting your son use the men’s alone. You are the one who knows your child best and you should always listen to your gut instinct. It’s there for a good reason.
Respect their right to privacy
There will always be some people who feel uncomfortable with children of the opposite sex either in the same toilets or changing rooms as them. But I do believe that these are in the minority. The majority of people will understand why parents take their children, whatever their gender, in with them. However you should also try to be as considerate as possible to others, whilst also respecting your own child’s right to privacy. If possible perhaps you could use accessible toilets or baby-changing rooms usually have toilets or cubicles in them.
Give them independence
The time will come when the majority of children need to be given the independence to use the toilets/changing rooms on their own. This can be a difficult time, usually more so for the parents than the children. The reality is that all you can do is prepare them to do so safely as best as you can. From teaching them how to deal with strangers, washing their hands after wiping and flushing properly after using the toilet. Or drying and dressing themselves and using a locker correctly in a leisure centre.
Until you and your child are ready for that my advice would be to not worry too much about those signs. Do what you think is right for your child. More and more places are also starting to have gender-neutral toilets and changing rooms. This of course will not suit everyone but will solve this problem.
Hope this helps.
The FamilyPoint Team 🙂
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