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Easing Bathtub Fears

Though 2-year-old Kate McSpirit-Brush used to love the bath, "now she screams if I just show her a towel," says her mom, Colleen, of Kinnelon, NJ. What's going on?

Plenty of toddlers are terrified of the tub  -- not to mention the toilet, vacuum cleaner, or anything else that sucks up stuff or drains it away, says Kathleen Kiely Gouley, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry at New York University's Child Study Center. Children this age don't realize they won't swirl down the drain (or into the filter) and disappear.

Most kids outgrow their phobia by age 4 or 5. Try these tactics for now:

Get in the tub, too Hold your child in your lap a couple of times so he feels more secure.

Convince him that he won't go down the drain. Fill the bath-tub with water toys and show that they're too big to get sucked under. And point out that he's much bigger than they are!

Make water play part of the day. By having fun (and being in control) at the sink, your child's likely to feel more comfortable in the tub.

Just skip it. Sponge baths may be a good solution; your child doesn't need a bath every day. Save yourself the shrieks.

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