I was at the airport and saw two women (mother and daughter I guess), traveling with a young boy (about 9 or 10 years old). The two women both went into the ladies toilet, and the boy went in with them. I thought it a bit strange that they would take such an old (clearly independent) boy into the women’s toilet.

Is there an upper age limit at which it is no longer appropriate to do this? What about men taking their daughter into the men’s toilet? Do the same rules apply? In this example if 2 men took a 9 to 10-year-old girl into the men’s toilet would it be any more or less appropriate?

I don't think this is a question of being appropriate for anyone outside of the family to decide. It all depends on how comfortable a parent is with leaving their child in a public space, especially one as busy as an airport.

What if the boy had to use the restroom and was uncomfortable going in the men's toilet alone. Should the mother go in the men's toilet with him? Societal expectations are just that -- expectations. Not requirements.

Where I live (a suburb of a major midwest US city), the common age is six years old. Some locations where it's very common to have an adult with children, such as the local pool, have explicit signs: "Children under six are permitted in opposite-gendered bathroom with parent. Over six must use appropriate bathroom or family bathroom." (They're not terribly modern as for LGBT, but we'll leave that be for this question.)

Personally, I would take my child in the bathroom with me if I felt they were not safe, or not comfortable, in a bathroom by themselves. I have two boys, so it won't ever be an issue for me, but if my six year old wants to go into the bathroom with my wife, I don't see why it's a big deal. Quite frankly, your child's safety and comfort outweigh anyone else's concerns in my opinion.

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    As an aside, I think we should do away with gendered bathrooms entirely, so perhaps I'm not the best resource for this question... :) – Joe Oct 16 '17 at 22:59
  • I agree, unisex bathrooms would be better. That would avoid the issue of an opposite-sex parent/guardian taking a child to the restroom – J Smith Oct 17 '17 at 11:11
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    I live in the MW & have traveled a fair bit. I'd be shocked to see an age limit sign & likely ignore it. If family bathrooms are plentiful & don't mean waiting ages, GREAT. But 7 yr olds don't always give you 30min warning they need to pee, particularly if you are at a place they find super fun. Not only that, I sometimes have taken my nephew on outings who is a teen & has some issues with competency & independence (especially in public unfamiliar places). I've only once taken him into a ladies room, but I would again. Either provide adequate alternatives or expect rules ignored. – threetimes Oct 19 '17 at 19:25
  • The gender separation is even more stupid when you see that most of the time it's : Men vs Women Vs Handicapped, which is not a gender... – Laurent S. Oct 11 at 12:39

For my family, that is fine. I don't make rules for other people. I do try to avoid this if possible because I accept other people's comfort levels, but if I am alone with my son who is that age, I take him in if it's a place I do not feel safe to leave him out. This is rarely an issue though as nearly all places seem not to have family bathrooms.

Different families operate differently. Not all families have issue with familial nudity/bathroom, etc. I grew up 9 people with one bathroom. We couldn't afford to have awkwardness over such small things.

  • can you write an example of a place where you do not feel safe to leave 9-10 y.o. son? – nzambi Oct 18 '17 at 7:13
  • @nzambi I live relatively close to a couple of the highest crime rate cities in the USA and I do take my kids there on occasion for various things. If I am in an area where they could be at significant risk alone, I take them in. I could care less about people's comfort over actual safety issues. It's just not comparable complaints. If they don't like my son in there, they can wait. I can't never pee. That isn't going to happen. – threetimes Oct 19 '17 at 0:30

Depending on the country, but particularly at an airport, there should be family washrooms.

This is a normal dilemma, for example when a father takes a young daughter to the swimming pool. You'll find that there are many individual "family" rooms/stalls that are considered neither male nor female.

Though in most places that are busy enough that the dilemma may be problematic usually a family and/or disabled washroom is around somewhere that removes the problem. Do you think you were in a country that had those facilities and that group couldn't find or recognise it?

Common practice is also for a 9-10 yo child to go by themselves, while having the opposite sexed guardian wait just outside by the door, if the child takes too long the adult calls in or depending if it's busy goes in and asks around. I've seen this innumerable times at restaurants.

  • No, the airport has no family restrooms, and the disabled restrooms are typically in a gendered restroom – J Smith Oct 17 '17 at 11:13

Appropriateness has nothing to do with age and everything to do with maturity. Is the child mature enough to go to the restroom on their own? Do they understand the concept of danger?

My children are young (4 and 5) so my wife takes then with her when we go out and there are no family restrooms.

As a father, I wouldn't take my daughter to the mens' room above the age of 6. She's already far too mature for her age and I feel that I can trust her at 6 to go to the women's bathroom on her own while I wait outside in earshot.

Personally, I would say that a good time to stop bringing children to opposite gender bathrooms is when they hit puberty. That's the time when they are more aware of the opposite sex's body.

Regarding your hypothetical question, about 2 men bringing a girl in the mens' room, that would raise a flag and I will surely discreetly see if the child is in distress but we live in times where same sex parents is not that uncommon.

Bottom line, every parent knows their child best. A third party is in no position to judge if it's appropriate to bring a child to an opposite sex bathroom. You have to accept that parents know best.

  • I recall my father once taking me at a rather older age into the mens room and walking me to the stall with a hand over my eyes. I found the whole thing rather humorous and enjoyed his clear discomfort at trying to sort out what to do with me when I had to pee and he didn't feel like I should go alone yet. – threetimes Oct 19 '17 at 19:28

Well, that's a question only you and your child can answer. Society has become very offended by well everything, but it's your comfort level and the child want to go by themselves. In my home bathroom doors were rarely closed so my four children are not ashamed or feel that going to the bathroom is a big deal. But as I always say that's just my life.

Women are used to seeing boys in the ladies' room, it happens all the time. Today I saw a 12-year old, he was developmentally delayed,so that probably was why. The mother was clearly more uncomfortable than I was, so I just smiled to put her at ease. I would not be terribly upset either if a man brought his daughter in to use the women's room if rather than the men's room, it's obviously a safer place.

I don't get why so many people think that the men's room is somehow unsafe for boys. Once my son was tall enough to reach the faucet (4 years old) he went in the men's room alone. If we were sitting where he could find us easily at a restaurant or mall he would go himself. If we had to walk any distance or it was an unfamiliar venue (airport for example) I'd go as far as the door and ,wait outside unless I had to go myself.

protected by Rory Alsop Oct 11 at 7:46

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