The fear of bathing in infants and toddlers is a normal part of growing up. It is a sign that they are beginning to understand the world and the way it works, and that they are trying to make sense of what it means for them, says ThankGod Ocheho, a Child Psychologist.
Babies get overwhelmed and terrified of things like toilet flushes, thunder, loud music, doctors’ medical equipment, and drains that suck all the water away. However, when babies begin to grow up and become more aware of the environment, they will come to figure things out for themselves that the things that seem scary aren’t so scary after all.
According to Ocheho, bathing babies is one moment most parents treasure and cherish. This is because it gives them the opportunity to bond and connect with their babies. However, this parenting ritual can also become a burden for some parents, especially when the child is scared of bathing and starts crying or throwing tantrums.
“This can cause a lot of distress for both the babies and the parents or caregivers. If parents or caregivers do not manage this process well for their kids, it can result in an anxiety disorder known as Ablutophobia (fear of bathing or water). That’s why it is important to treat the fear of bathing with empathy and care, even though sometimes this can be a challenging and difficult behaviour to work through.
“There are different reasons children develop the fear of bath. Their reasons might seem unreasonable to you, but what does reason have to do with fear? You may not share your child’s fear, but you’re not the one who’s feeling it. Even as adults there are things you are still afraid of and they are unreasonable to some people.”
The child psychologist stressed that apart from the fact that babies get scared of the bath because they are beginning to understand the world around them, the following are some other reasons babies get scared.
. Bad experience: If a child has ever fallen in the bathtub, swallowed water or shampoo or put soap in his or her eyes, he or she might become fearful of bath time.
. Bad memories of bath time are one of the reasons some babies have developed the fear of bath. For instance, talking a child down or using demeaning words during bath time can create bad memories.
. If you are apprehensive about putting your child in the water, you might have transmitted that fear in your baby. Fear is contagious.
Irrespective of the reason for this fear, there is always a way out of every difficult and challenging task. You can help your child overcome the fear of bath. First, drop any form of punishment when your child is expressing the fear of bath.
Punishment increases and aggravates the fear. It is not the right strategy to use to help a child. Stop punishing your child for what he or she is not aware of or within his or her control. Also, do not apply force or put pressure on your child if he or she does not feel at ease in the water.
“Making fun of the child or making comparisons with other children will simply make the child more anxious. Instead, focus on calming and comforting the child so that he or she can feel safe. Additionally, get your baby special toys and put them inside the water so he or she can play with them while you take his or her bath. You can also sing, play or read stories with your baby during this time.
“Furthermore, create ideal conditions that will make the child enjoy bath time. Quiet place, the temperature of the water, positive moods and words are some of the ideal experience you can create for the child during bath time. Children are naturally afraid of so many things in their environment, but how you help the child to go through this period is very critical in child development,” Ocheho added.