Toilet anxiety and school readiness

Starting school is a big step – find out all you need to know to get off to a happy start

Starting school is a big step – and an exciting time for both children and parents. Understandably, you both might be a little worried ahead of the big day. Having toilet anxiety – or even starting school not fully toilet trained – can add to this nervousness for many young children.;

You might have concerns that your little one won’t be able to use a school toilet without your help, or they’ll be reluctant to do so, which could lead to accidents in the classroom. 

Statistics show that in a class of 30 children, as many as four can suffer from toilet anxiety in their first year at school

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If your child won’t use the toilet at school, there are several ways you can make them feel more comfortable and, ultimately, help them to thrive in this new environment. 

School readiness resources

Help prepare your young family for the big day with our guidance and advice.

School readiness checklist

We’ve developed an easy to follow checklist to help you and your little one get ready for the transition to school. 

School anxiety how to deal with it

General anxiety about going to school can impact home life and the routines you’ve worked hard to establish. We look into how to help children feel happier about attending school. 

Using school toilets

If your child is starting school and isn’t toilet trained – or you worry they won’t use the bathroom at school – there are some ways to help prepare and encourage them to feel more confident. 

It’s actually quite common for children to have issues using the school bathroom – so don’t worry. Around 70% of early years’ teachers say they have encountered children with such issues.

The most common age for a child to be toilet trained is around four years old. So there’s a high likelihood that several children starting school won’t be fully toilet trained. 

The reasons your child may find using a school toilet difficult vary. These can include:

Newness – if your child hasn’t been to nursery or preschool before starting school, they may find the situation stressful or overwhelming at first. This could lead to them avoiding using the toilet. 

Loudness – flushing toilets can sound a lot scarier than the potty, which can put some little ones off using them. 

Privacy – school bathrooms aren’t as private at the one back home. Hearing other children in the same room may make them anxious.

Environment – making new friends at school is an exciting time and some children can feel they may miss out on all the fun by taking a bathroom break. 

Nervousness – children will usually need to ask their teacher for permission to leave a classroom to use the toilet, which nervous children may struggle with and avoid. 

It’s important to encourage your child and help them understand that using a school bathroom is perfectly safe, normal and easy to do. 

Toilet training at school

Toilet training at school isn’t very common. Teachers should be experienced at encouraging little ones to use the bathroom and helping if there is an accident. But as far as specific toilet training goes, most schools will not offer this. Instead, you can encourage your child to use the toilet at school by practising at home.

Usually, by the age of four the majority of children will be regularly dry.  If your little one still has the occasional accident, it’s good to remain positive and continue to reinforce bathroom use through regular, independent use of the toilet at home. 

Teachers can help in this department by actively promoting and encouraging the use of school bathrooms. Schools will have a policy outlining how teachers should handle a child wetting or soiling themselves. If you have concerns, it’s a good idea to get in touch with your local school for more info.  

Getting children ready for school toilets

You can encourage your youngster to feel more comfortable and secure using school toilets in a number of ways. The aim is to help them feel confident using the bathroom themselves and going when they need to during school hours. 

Begin the process at home, and keep encouraging them, even after they’ve started school. To help get your children ready for using school toilets:

Plan ahead – make sure your child has been to the toilet at least 30 minutes before you leave for school. Likewise, you might want to help them use the toilets at school when you pick them up. This way, your little one will get used to these toilets with you by their side. 

Know the routine – ask the teacher how your child should ask to go to the toilet and what they need to do when they go. If they need to ask permission from the teacher, remind them how to do this. 

Encourage toilet use – use the toilet at home and when out in public spaces. Getting your child used to a proper bathroom experience can boost their confidence and ability in the school bathroom.

Drink water – regularly drinking water is great for keeping your little one healthy and hydrated. It can also encourage healthy, regular levels of bathroom use. 

It’s important to work together with your child’s teacher to help your child navigate this exciting, but sometimes stressful, new start in their life. 

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