Although this article is written to help parents deal with the issue of using public bathrooms, the tips hold true for anyone who takes children to public places, including child care providers and teachers.

Moms eventually must let their sons use the boys’ restroom and dads must allow their daughters to go into the girls’ bathroom. Of course, the same notion holds true for anyone who provides child care for children. After all, at a certain age, it becomes inappropriate for opposite-sex members to go into a public restroom. A solo kid bathroom trip can be a stress-free success with proper planning and preparation.

From Robin McClure, former Guide

1. Is Your Child Ready For a Kid Bathroom Solo Outing?
First things first. Is your kid fully potty-trained and independent in bathroom skills? Does your kid possess basic skills in locking/unlocking stalls, unsnapping/snapping and zipping skills, wiping, flushing of toilets, and hand-washing skills? After all, there is nothing more frustrating than for a child to yell for mom in the boys’ bathroom: “Mom! Can you come in here? I have a problem!”

2. Are Signs Saying It’s Time for Gender-Proper Kid Bathroom Choices?
Do you have to drag your son in to the ladies room because he recognized the woman picture sign on the outside? Do other men look at dad funny if he is rushing in a toddler daughter into a stall? While some establishments do have family bathrooms, most do not, and kids sometimes just have to go at the most inopportune times. And, at a certain age, kids may flat-out refuse to accompany an opposite sex parent into a bathroom for privacy reasons.

3. Is Your Child Big Enough To Reach Things Independently?
Another kid bathroom check is to see if he is big enough to reach things for himself. Can your daughter turn on (and OFF) the faucet and get a paper towel? Is your son tall enough for proper urinal use?

4. No Kid Bathroom Playing Allowed: Make Sure Etiquette Is Understood
Kids must know that they cannot dawdle or goof off. It is unacceptable to not flush the toilet (or flush it 10 times for fun). They can’t unroll the toilet paper, leave the sink running, or play with the soap dispenser. In other words, kids must know the rules of what they must do and what they absolutely can’t. After all, you cannot run in after them and clean up their mess.

5. Safety Rules Rule During Kid Bathroom Outings in Public
Every parent fears something inappropriate occurring in a public bathroom. While incidents are rare, parents and providers alike should have frequent age-appropriate discussions with their kids or kids in their care before going on public outings. They should discuss safety rules about not talking with or staring at strangers, going with a stranger for any reason, and about inappropriate touching or actions in any way. Remind them that going to the bathroom is a necessity; but the public restroom is not a place to make friends or do anything at all but going to the bathroom. Children should always opt to go into a private stall for privacy.

6. Meeting Place Is a Must for Kid Public Bathroom Safety
Discuss an appropriate meeting place. Men’s and women’s bathrooms are not always side by side, and parents with kids of both genders who desperately need to go potty are sometimes put in a bind. Be sure to reinforce safety as well as consequences if a child is not where he is supposed to be. (Anyone who has experienced that temporary terror is well-acquainted with the importance of a meeting place.)

7. Kid Bathroom Outing: Is Your Child Independent and Confident Enough To Go Solo?
An important question parents/providers must ask themselves is whether a child is emotionally mature enough and self-confident to go into a public bathroom without a parent. Is a child independent enough or is she still clingy without a parent? Most of the time, public bathroom outings are appropriate around the age of 5 or 6, but a child’s personal maturity and abilities should be the deciding factor.

8. Success Is Measured One Step At A Time
Kid bathroom outings should begin in a controlled, comfortable setting (for parent and child both). A good place to begin is at a fast-food kid-friendly restaurant like McDonald’s with a parent standing right outside the door. Later, a child can work up to a larger bathroom setting like a movie theatre or restaurant. Parents should use these outings to reinforce positive behavior and check with a child’s comfort level after each outing. Before long, kid bathroom outings will become easy.

9. What To Do If the Unthinkable Does Occur
While it’s horrible to even think about, parents and providers must prepare kids for what to do if something unthinkable does occur. Adults must balance a child’s need to have information with actions that they absolutely must take if something inappropriate happens. An honest conversation must occur in a way that does not frighten a child from going to a public bathroom, all the while being sure he/she is prepared.