When Is Your Son Too Old to Use the Women’s Restroom?

a boys bathroom

For years you’ve taken your little boy into the bathroom with you when he needs to go. But there will soon come a time when your son is too old to use the women’s restroom.

Some facilities where I live, including the local YWCA, has signs posted indicating that boys over six years old need to use the men’s restrooms and changing rooms. So what’s a mom with a little boy to do? Tell her son to visit the bathroom by himself? Send him alone into a locker room filled with adult men to shower and dress after swim class?

On a recent visit to a park, a nanny I was talking told her seven-year-old charge to find a tree when he asked to go potty. She mentioned an older woman had commented on the age of the boy the last time the nanny had taken him to use the park’s women’s bathroom. The nanny could have taken him over to the men’s facilities, but a lot of caregivers just aren’t comfortable with sending their kids into public bathrooms alone. (And this nanny also had another small boy and girl to keep an eye on).

Admittedly the risk of something bad happening if your son uses the bathroom alone is probably quite small. But of course it’s better to be safe and cautious than sorry. Telling the child to find a tree, as wrong as that solution is, was the best option in this case.

So what’s a concerned parent to do? Because we all know kids need to go to the bathroom, a lot. We like these tips from the Childrens Mom Docs. They apply to daughters as well.

  1. Try to never send your child into a public restroom or changing room alone. Request help from a security guard or an employee, but not a random stranger.
  2. Tell your son to use a stall and never a urinal. Privacy is of utmost importance.
  3. Make sure your kids know not to talk to strangers in the bathroom. And they should let anyone who speaks to them know that.
  4. Choose a bathroom with only one entrance, so you can know who is entering and when. Stand next to the door and make eye contact with the restroom users, if possible.

They also recommend standing in the door of the restroom and talking your child through the experience, if possible. If you can do so without violating the privacy of others, this seems reasonable to us.

Of course the ideal public restroom experience with kids is the unisex, private bathroom. As your sons (and daughters) get older, you might find yourself seeking out destinations that have private bathrooms.

What’s been your experience with boys and public bathrooms? Do you have any tips or stories to share?