When Can Kids Use Public Bathrooms on Their Own?

Archived Q&A and Reviews


At what age is it safe for kids to go by themselves?

January 1999

I was reading all the postings about the Mom & Dad disagreeing on safety issues , and I have a related question of my own. All the opinions expressed adamantly stated that children should never be sent alone into a public restroom. I was wondering: At what age *does* it become safe to send a child to the bathroom alone? 5? 8? 12? Sometimes I find myself in a very uncomfortable position: I have a 3 yr old boy and a 5 yr old girl. The three of us will be at a restaurant, and one of the children will need to go to the bathroom. We can't all pick up our stuff and go, or the restaurant employees are likely to think we've left and to clear away our food; I can't go into the bathroom with one child, leaving the other all alone and unsupervised at a table in the restaurant (I would think this is even more dangerous than sending one to the bathroom alone); I'm not keen on sending one child to the bathroom alone, because even assuming the child could *find* the bathroom there always are fears about what might happen. I usually compromise by walking the child to the bathroom door, sending him/her in alone, but standing near the door, but where I can also see the table. I didn't think this was that bad a solution, but everyone who posted a response to the Mom & Dad safety question seemed to think sending a child into the bathroom alone is a horrible thing to do. So does anyone have any alternative suggestions?

I'm a single mother with no father in the picture and I started letting my son go into public restrooms by himself when he was about 5. I stand outside of the door and estimate how much time it should take him to get in and do his business and get out. If it seems to be taking longer I call out to see if he is okay. I am perfectly willing to go into a men's restroom if I'm sufficiently worried. I've just had to do this once or twice in the last 4 years. There is a strong cultural taboo against a woman in a men's bathroom (and vice versa), but I recognize it for what it is, just a cultural taboo, and I feel no qualms about breaking it if I think the situation warrants it.

I think the compromise of waiting for the one kid while keeping the other kid in view in the restaurant is a good one. Dianna