Ask The Experts

When family members should stop taking baths together

Q I would like to know at what age a parent should stop taking baths with a child of the opposite gender. What is the impact likely to be on the child if the communal bathing continues ?

A The short answer is: Stop when the child or the adult feels uncomfortable. Having family members take baths together is more common in certain societies. As long as the parents are comfortable during this time of bonding, there is no fixed age at which to stop.

Children start getting curious about their bodies and the differences between boys and girls during the toddler years. They might start asking their parents about these differences. This could be an educational moment where parents can talk to them about sexual differences and how to be private about one's body parts.

Dr Chan Poh Chong, Head and senior consultant at the division of general ambulatory paediatrics and adolescent medicine at National University Hospital

There is no negative impact on the child if the questions are answered in a matter-of-fact way. Parents can take the chance to impart early sex education to toddlers.

However, if the parent becomes uncomfortable, it would be time to stop.

Similarly, if the child starts to feel embarrassed about displaying his or her body in front of family members, or starts closing the doors while changing clothes, it might be time to stop.

More positively, stopping communal baths would start encouraging the children to become more independent. They could learn to wash themselves and develop self-care skills.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 27, 2015, with the headline 'When family members should stop taking baths together '. Subscribe