Global Council for Tolerance and Peace

When kids are afraid to shower

D. Antoine Chartouni

D. Antoine Chartouni

Some kids are afraid to take a shower, and when we ask them: “Why are you afraid to shower?” they look at us and don’t know how to explain the fear in their eyes. The fear of showering is not considered a phobia, but it might become one.

Why children are afraid of bathing

A large number of children love playing with water, but there are others who are terrified by showering. A child could fear water for many reasons, some are:

– An in-shower bad memory (hot water on his soft skin, soap in his eyes…) that makes him afraid of coming near water again,
– Some children dream that they are drowning, so they transfer this dream to reality, and fear water. When it’s time to wash up, they start screaming out of fear of drowning,
– If the mom is also afraid of the water, or passing through a stage of anxiety, the feeling will be passed on to the child, and he will fear water.

Fear of showering vs shower phobia

– The fear of showering is common among kids, and its first symptoms appear between the ages of 6 months and 2 years. Whereas the shower phobia does not appear before the age of 3 or 4, and its symptoms might be extremely different from the regular fear of washing up. Actually, the children refuse completely to shower, and suffer from physical symptoms, such as: Fast heart rate, sweating, strong fear, screaming…
– Most kids do not like to shower for many reasons which we will present throughout this article, but at the end of the day, the kid will wash up if his parents encourage him. As for children with shower phobia, parents will not reach their goal despite encouragement and perseverance.

What is the mother’s role in this?

The child who fears bathing should be prepared: His mom should explain to him that before going to bed, she will be helping him take a shower. She can also tell him a story during the shower, it could help him relax and make showering time fun. Parents shouldn’t force the child to take a shower if he’s screaming or kicking or hitting. They should instead wait for him to relax – they can put some soft music or songs that the child likes to listen to while showering.

Showering should become an every-day habit for the child. When the child understands that showering is a part of his daily schedule, he gets used it and accepts it. The parents should also explain to him that showering has many benefits, among which are feeling relaxed, and especially clean.

The mother can use a shampoo that doesn’t sting the eye, because one of the child’s fears is soap that “burns” his eyes. The mother should never forget to use fun and humor with the child while washing up. She can also give him his plastic toys to play with in the bath tub.

Finally, strong water flow should not be used during the cleaning process, because some kids are afraid of the strength of the water flow. Moreover, the child should be introduced to water gradually: The mother can use a wet sponge with a soap foam, because kids like the shape of soap foam.

Some tips for the moms who suffer with their child during the shower process:

– Use his favorite toys during the shower, and ask him to wash his toys with soap and water. This will help him wash up too,
– Don’t ever yell at him, because it will make him more fearful and anxious,
– Ask his dad to take you two to the pool. It is an effective way to have contact with water and not fear it, especially with the presence of the father (because the child sees his father as a strong person),
– Ask your son to wash a finger or two, then his hand, then both of his hands, then his face… This way, you would be encouraging your child to shower and to be independent,
– Encourage your child during the cleaning process, and use soft smells after the shower. The father’s role is to help you in the process, and to encourage the child.

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