Monday, March 31, 2008

Okay, Now This is Becoming a Problem

So my kid, the kid who loves water, who has always loved water, who likes to go totally underwater while swimming... Has developed a phobia of the bathtub. And today (Saturday) while I was at work she freaked out when her dad tried to do the dishes.

I have no idea how this happened. The only thing I can think of is that we will sometimes give her a cotton ball to 'wash her face with' while she's in the tub. Peter said once one went down the drain when she pulled the plug. I'm not sure if that's when it started or not. But it has been getting progressively worse.

It began with her being happy to have a 'tub tub time' but at some point she would kind of mildly panic and begin to throw all her toys out of the tub and get out herself. In the past few weeks the time she would stay in shortened and the mild panic became full fledged crying and freaking out and frantically trying to get everything out of the tub. Last weekend while we were visiting her Grandma out of town she and her cousin had a bath together. It started off fine and about five minutes in she had a melt down, chucking everything out of the tub, etc. I lifted her out of the tub and sat her on my lap as I sat beside it. She started screaming and crying and reaching out for her cousin (who is about 1 year old) saying we needed to take her out of the tub. My hand happened to be on A's chest and her poor little heart was pounding so hard and fast. I had to take her out of the bathroom and calm her down.

Tonight, (Saturday) was the worst so far. She did NOT want to have a bath and kept saying so repeatedly as I ran the water. I was hoping she'd change her mind. Then I told her she didn't have to have a bath but I was going to have one. I got in the tub and her dad sat in the bathroom with me. She kept wandering in and out of the bathroom with a concerned look on her face. Then she said she'd like to have a bath too. She got undressed and climbed in with me. She was smiling and happy at first and then suddenly she looked so sad and said "I don't wanna take a bath either." and started to cry and climb out.

I feel so terrible about this. She is clearly so afraid. I was reading a bit about this on the internet and found it is one of the most common toddler phobias and usually one they outgrow. Next time I will try having a shower with her and see if she likes that instead. She has also expressed interest in going swimming when we go to the Y and I think I will take her next week and see how that goes. It just breaks my heart seeing her be so afraid of something that is kind of unavoidable. I know I can resort to sponge baths but I'd really like to find another way. And if it's getting so severe that she doesn't even like to see us washing dishes that is a real problem...

Does anyone else have any experience with this? Any ideas?


elizasmom said...

Oh, poor, poor A. That is so sad.

Whenever Eliza has an experience that upsets her, it helps her if I talk it through with her, almost like telling a story, and make sure to give it a happy ending, like, "When you got sick, you were so, so upset and Mommy was sad too, and then we had to clean up the mess, but then Mommy gave you hugs and kisses and the doctor gave you some medicine and now you are all better!"

Not sure if this would work in A's situation, but it's been a big help with Eliza.

Good luck!

Mama D said...

At this point - talking about it seems to do no good. Even if we talk about it at another time, when she's calm and she nods and understands what I am saying... when it comes down to it, at the time, the fear takes hold of her and she is completely irrational. There is no comforting her whatsoever. Sigh. Tonight, we will try a shower and see if that goes better.

I will keep talking to her about it though and hope that it sinks in eventually.

Nikkie said...

I think that letting her see you in the bath and bathe with you is a really good idea. I'm thinking if you keep doing it like that she might decide its not scary anymore. Poor Miss A :(

bon said...

Seems to me that there are several children's books out there that deal with this. Perhaps reading one of these books would give y'all a safer jumping of point than just "talking" about baths and fears and stuff. Like maybe since the story is about someone else, she might be able to get enough distance on the topic to think a little clearer about it, without her fears clouding everything immediately? Just thinking out loud here?

One thing is for sure... these fears of hers are a GOOD SIGN of a sharp, and creative mind! She isn't just sitting like a lump, she is imagining BIG THINGS going on!

bon said...

well fiddle dee dee! I just googled the topic and cannot find much in the way of books AT ALL!

If I were to write and illustrate such a book for A, what elements would it have in it? Is it mostly the drain that has her freaked? Is she afraid of where these things go? Maybe the story could be about a favorite bath toy's adventures? Email me.

Elicia said...

Aww, poor A. I have no advice whatsoever. Ethan has recently started getting scared of things he wasn't scared of before and it breaks my heart seeing him upset. He's now afraid of the handblender and I can't use it when he's in the room and the other day he started crying at a commercial for gum where a bank alarm goes off and bars slam down. Who knows what goes on in their minds! I hope she gets over it soon!

beth - total mom haircut said...

This has not happened to us, although I will say that Sam has started battling bath time more and more lately and I'm not sure that we aren't headed in this direction. It does sound like this might have had something to do with the cotton ball going down the drain. Maybe she didn't understand that things that go down the drain disappear until that moment. I don't know where you go from here. I'm sure there's a lot of advice out there on the good ol' web.

Sugarmama said...

My first reaction was that she was trying to get a reaction, but A genuinely sounds very afraid from what you're describing. Poor kiddo! No experience here, but just a little parental empathy and not pushing her too much about it ought to help her overcome it sooner rather than later. I think showering together is a good idea. And could you maybe let her start "bathing" some waterproof toys in the sink at some point in the day, too? So she can see that they're fine in their bath?

Lynanne said...

My son used to freak out about both the bathtub and toilet. No matter how hard we tried to reassure him, he just didn't understand that large objects can't go down the drain. Several things helped:

We bought a bathmat large enough to cover the drain. Out of sight, out of mind?

We never let the water out of the tub or flushed the toilet while he was anywhere near it.

Picture stories with simple sentence helped. (a variation of the "social stories" we used for his problem autistic behaviors) I'll see if I can find ours, or if Bon wants some suggestions for how to write it, I can see what I can do to help.

There seems like more i'm forgetting. I'll probably remember after hitting "save" Good luck!

Lynanne said...

um yeah, i forgot -

We bought a new bathtub toy and told him he could only use it in the tub to motivate him to get in. Then, we made sure to get him out the tub before he freaked. Try foam letters and shapes that stick to the side of the tub when wet. Soap crayons were also a big hit. We didn't give him the whole set at once so the excitement would last longer.

Carrie said...

Oddly enough, this issue just popped up on Ask Moxie this morning. The comments usually have a ton of varying advice so you might want to check it out. good luck! Erik hates having his hair washed and fights it like the devil, but it doesn't seem to be fear. It is a problem, though.

supremetrishy said...

Check out the Ask moxie site. She had a post on toddlers who were afraid of baths.. There might be some helpful information for you there.