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Some young children develop a fear of the bathtub, toilet, or other types of drains. This usually revolves around the belief that they might somehow be sucked down into the pipes. Young children tend to be magical thinkers. They still aren’t quite sure of what is or isn’t possible in this world; a world that at times can seem full of other magic.

A fear of the bath may also have to do with the fact that in a bath full of bubbles children can’t see the bottom. Absent this sensory input from their eyes, they may imagine monsters or other malicious creatures lurking down there. Or it may be anxiety about the water itself. If bath time includes the unpleasant sensation of getting water up their nose, this can be enough to make them fear baths in general.

Dealing with a child’s fear of the bathtub or drains

  1. Have them assist you in filling the tub with water. Watching it fill up will relieve anxiety in kids whose fear is based upon magical beliefs of what might be sharing the tub with them. For those with other anxieties, it’s an action they can control that may help them feel empowered.
  1. Avoid letting the water drain out while your child is still in the tub so as not to stoke their anxieties. If this doesn’t do the trick, wait to drain it until your child is out of the bathroom.
  1. When you wash their hair, watch how you pour water over their head to rinse it. If it goes down the front of their face,kids may feel like they can’t breathe. Letting them hold a dry towel over their face will often fix this.

Helping children overcome their fear of bathtubs, drains, or toilets

Reasoning with a child over these fears probably isn’t the best approach. Since they’re not rational fears, trying to cure it with reason will likely only frustrate you. Instead, try the following hands-on approaches to demonstrate that there’s nothing to be afraid of:

  1. Stand next to a child and hold them tight as they flush the toilet over and over again or let the water out of the drain. Once they’re comfortable with this, have them do it with your hand on their shoulder, and then with you standing nearby but not touching them.
  1. Demonstrate the limited suction power of drains. Invite them to put their hand on the drain and feel that the suction isn’t strong enough to pull them in. If they’re afraid to do this, use another light object like a large feather or a pen. Once they see that it can’t be sucked down the drain, take it out and have them throw it to demonstrate how much stronger they are.
  1. Talk about the process. When you flush the toilet, say something like “when we push the handle, the toilet sucks the water with a loud ‘Whoosh!’ and then fills it up again” or “It’s time to let the water out. It will suck down the water and small pieces of dirt, but Janessa is much too big to be sucked down the drain. Look at those tiny little holes; Janessa is much bigger than that.” This helps your child become more comfortable with the various appliances in your house.

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