When Should My Kids Stop Bathing Together?
A child therapist shares insights that can clue you in on when it might be time to pull the plug on sibling bath time.
Bathtime is often a fun opportunity for younger siblings to play and bond. And for parents, it creates adorable memories to cherish for a lifetime — not to mention it’s a real time-saver. While there’s no specific age when siblings should stop bathing together, it’s a ritual that will eventually phase out as they grow up and their need for privacy increases.
As a mom of two, I know it’s always a little sad to let go of these cute moments as your children get older, but before you go cry into that neverending pile of laundry (same, mama, same), take a second to realize that every milestone gives you the chance to teach them about life, creating a bond with you that will always be there, regardless of age.
When should my kids stop bathing together?
“My experience has been that many children begin to express more of a desire for privacy around 10 years old, and this may come earlier for girls than boys who often begin puberty earlier,” says Erica Miller, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and director at Connected Minds NYC, who believes that the decision to end the ritual ultimately comes down to the children’s level of comfort and family dynamics.
Instead of focusing on just age, Miller suggests that parents also consider the following:
- Individual Preferences. Have your children expressed the need for more privacy? This might show up in the form of asking for the door to be closed, or altogether refusing to take a bath. Parents can also begin the conversation by asking their children what their preferences are, how they feel about their changing bodies, and if they feel comfortable letting their siblings or other family members see them undressed.
- Family Dynamics. Is nudity a normal part of your family dynamic? Are there step-parents or extended family living in the home that increase the need for privacy?
- Sex and Age. Opposing sexes may not be as much an issue at a very young age, but as they grow, physical maturation will undoubtedly become part of the conversation. Parents can usually expect children with larger age gaps to spend less time in the bathtime bonding phase as the older child’s need for privacy increases.
- Physical and Emotional Maturation. How developed are your children, both physically and emotionally? Are younger siblings beginning to ask questions about changes they notice in their siblings or their own bodies that may signal the need for more privacy?
Should I worry about my kids bathing together?
Shared bath time can be a fun bonding experience, so unless your children have already expressed the desire to stop bathing with their siblings, are well into puberty, or you’ve identified other reasons that make separate bath times the best choice for your family, there’s no inherent risk.
Equally as meaningful as sibling bonding, it’s also an excellent opportunity to teach your children about their bodies and about consent. “Teaching your child the correct term for anatomical parts, and learning how to advocate or even identify their needs [...] gives them the skills that we want them to have later on in life,” says Miller, adding that this should start at a young age and regardless of sex or gender.
Beginning at a very young age, children should be taught who can and cannot touch their bodies and how important it is to tell a trusted adult when someone breaks those rules. And this goes both ways — children should be taught that touching or commenting on other people’s bodies is never OK. The exception may be within a family conversation where it’s often beneficial to regularly check in with your children about how they may be feeling about their bodies, if they have any questions or concerns, or to teach them about body anatomy and safety.
The bottom line?
Don’t cut off sibling bath time just because of age. Instead, let your child’s preferences and maturity — and what works best for your family — help you make the decision.