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After a scary pool incident, my 3-year-old is afraid of baths.
Q: My 3-year-old used to be fond of baths until an incident last year in a pool. Now every time I try to give him a bath he screams and cries until I take him out of the bathtub. If he even hears the water running, he avoids the bathroom altogether. Before he would strip at the sound of running bath water. What can I do to re-introduce him to the bath without frightening him?
Nikki Detroit
A: I have seen children avoid a bath for months once they have been frightened in some way. Most often they have reacted to the water being too hot . You sound like a patient mum and that is exactly how you have to be with this situation.

Slowly try to get your child interested in bathing by a process of desensitization. When we desensitize children, we are essentially exposing them to little pieces of what they are afraid of until they have the courage to try the whole experience. In your case, I recommend some water play: buy some wooden boats and float them in the kitchen sink; then, float them in the tub. If he avoids the bathroom, have Dad start playing with the boats in the tub. Chances are, in a short time your son will wander into the bathroom to find out what Daddy is doing.

Another idea is to encourage your child to come into the bathroom while you or another child is in the bathtub. Little by little, you will help your 3-year-old to quiet his fears and once again get into the bathtub. In the meantime, consider getting a little plastic tub like you use to bathe babies—your son may find it less frightening. Continue to be patient, as this may take a couple of months. Good luck!
Kenneth N. Condrell Ph.D Child Psychologist