We just had an amazing turnout for a KidSafe Family event we held at an elementary school. Without fail one of the first questions parents always ask is:
At what age is my child old enough to go into a public restroom alone?
We become a bit baffled by this question because after a parent has participated in a one hour KidSafe seminar – we have educated them on issues of sexual abuse, what grooming looks like, why children don’t tell, disclosure, bullying, internet safety, cyber bullying, safe and unsafe touch, communicating with children….and the list goes on…we ponder why this is the question always asked after each lecture. Here are our thoughts…..
It’s a safe question – parents often think we will give them a concrete blanketed answer – a specific age. This answer is something a parent can put into practice right away to help insure the safety of their children. We all want to know what the concrete guidelines are that would make our children safe because, quite often the world can be a scary place.
Parents have many questions about talking to their children about their personal safety but this one, the public restroom question, is benign and by asking this question other questions perhaps can be answered as well such as:
At what age can my child ……
- to play dates without me
- to sleepovers
- to overnight camp
Stay home alone
But teaching safety to your children is not black and white. We can take many precautions to keep our children safe, for example by keeping the medicines out of a child’s reach, covering the electrical sockets, or making sure that the camp we send our child to does background checks, those are external measures. When it comes to teaching our children about their personal safety – it is internal – so at KidSafe we answer this often asked question:
“At what age is my child old enough to use the public restroom alone? “ with the following answer:
“What have you taught your child about his/her personal safety so that you feel confident and your child feels confident he/she can make the safest and smartest choices when going into a public restroom?” (or going on a play date without a parent, having a sleep over, going to overnight camp?)
To us at KidSafe, we see these conversations about personal safety as a natural part of our parenting – just part of the job. We know this can be a tough question to answer for some parents…because talking to your children about their personal safety is fearful for some, or you may think you don’t want to put ideas in your child’s head, take away their innocence, or scare them. Our philosophy at KidSafe is to teach children personal safety from a place of fun not fear. Personal safety life skills should be used every day as a natural part of your parenting. If you can incorporate these life skills starting with children as young as four these skills become a habit that our children can use for a life time.
So through our blog we will share with you some skills and tips about how to integrate KidSafe skills into your everyday parenting so you will know and have confidence that your child will make the safest and smarted choices when given new responsibilities such as using a public restroom or what to do if a sleepover goes sour.
At this point you have probably caught on that we are not going to give you specific age guidelines to answer these questions. What we will do, in our next blog, is provide you with concrete skills that you can start using immediately, everyday in your natural parenting to help keep your children safe. These life skills are not scary but are necessary for your children to have the ability to make the safest and smartest choices as they gain more independence and responsibilities as they grow up. Then you can feel confident to let them go to that public restroom alone – because they will have learned and practiced how to make the safest and smartest choices when faced with safety situations.