When my daughter excitedly watched Finding Nemo for the first time she absolutely loved it. It’s a beautiful tale about a baby fish who gets taken by a diver and put into an aquarium at a dentist’s office. His father sets out on a journey across the ocean to find him and it turns out to be a happy ending of course. But, little did we know that this innocent movie would eventually cause our daughter an incredible amount of distress.
Fear affects us all, Image Source: Pixar's Finding Nemo
She’d always loved the bath, splashing about in there for as long as she could until she was dragged out shivering. Bath times were fun, entertaining and relaxing. But a few weeks after watching Finding Nemo a few more times, bath times became an absolute nightmare. Screaming in fear when she was put into the water, throwing all of the bath toys out of the bath and scrambling out in sheer terror. She was only two years old at the time so it was difficult for her to tell us exactly what was wrong but after some charades and a lot of guessing, we discovered it had something to do with the plug hole. She was frightened that she was going to be sucked down in it along with all of her toys. That’s when we realised that her fear had stemmed from the movie. In the film, Nemo escapes from the aquarium with the help of some other fishy friends, eventually disappearing down the dentist’s basin and is flushed out to sea. A true a-ha moment.
The bath can be daunting for kids
So after we’d discovered what was wrong, we then had to put it right again, something that didn’t happen overnight. For a few days a sponge down was the only way we could get her clean as she screamed in terror whenever we suggested the idea of a bath. After a few days though she was finally confident enough to stand in the bath while we sloshed her with water and a couple of weeks later after much coaxing and praise she found confidence to sit down again and have a proper bath, although the bath toys still had to remain outside. To this day, she doesn’t like objects floating in the bath, still in fear of them disappearing down the drain but at least bath times are no longer a chore.
Bath time should be fun for everyone
A lesson learnt
So what did we learn? Patience is key. The fear she had of the bath obviously wasn’t going to cripple her forever, we just had to wait it out and praise her every time she came close to having a bath. At times it was frustrating and the drama seemed so absurd to us, but after we took a step back and imagined things from her point of view, it did actually make sense. Just as adults have fears of heights, spiders or small spaces, children too have fears which we must be mindful of. Don’t ignore them and force them to do something they don’t want to do, because ultimately it could make the road to recovery a lot longer and much more painful for all involved.