Bathroom door policy

How to know when it's time to set up bathroom boundaries

Q: We’ve always had an open-bathroom-door policy with our son, who is now four. At what point does it become inappropriate to dress or undress in front of your child?

A: At your son’s age, most children are keenly aware of the differences between boys’ and girls’ bodies, and they may also become increasingly aware that their genitals can be a source of pleasure. This could cause your son to feel discomfort, embarrassment or even stimulation when exposed to a parent’s naked body — particularly a parent of the opposite sex.

Another thing to think about is modelling behaviour that teaches your son healthy and safe boundaries. You want him to learn that his body is private and that undressing and using the toilet are private activities. At the same time, you want to be careful not to send the message that he should be ashamed of his body.

Take your cue from how comfortable you are feeling and how your son reacts when you undress in his presence. You may notice that he begins to request more privacy directly, or he may show his desire for privacy by going into the bathroom and locking the door or asking you not to come in.