Familiarize Your Child with Store Bathrooms
Whenever I go into a store—grocery, electronics, the mall—I look around to make sure that I know where the bathrooms are located. (Usually, I remember where they are from those final days of pregnancy when I needed to find bathrooms in a hurry!)
Then, if you do need to abandon your cart for a quick potty run, you know where to go. This helps alleviate your own stress as well as your child's, who is still trying to figure out when he really does have to "go."
Preparing your child for what he'll find in public stalls can ease his bathroom anxiety. Many features on commercial toilets that seem great for adults—like automatic flushing—can scare kids. (To avoid surprise flushes try covering the automatic sensor, the red button on the back of the toilet, with your hand.)
Another strategy? Dr. Carl G. Arinoldo, EdD, a psychologist and author of Essentials of Smart Parenting: Learning the Fine Art of Managing Your Children says you can empower your child when it comes to flushing. Let your child practice flushing at home, so that it's natural on the road. When my daughter first started using public potties I realized she'd never really flushed the potty herself. I'd always done it for her. We'd waved goodbye to pee and poop several times in the potty, but I'd always been the flusher, and she just wasn't used to it.
Dr. Arinoldo suggests letting your child flush a public potty when she doesn't have to use it, so she knows what the sound is like. "Make it into a game-type of thing while waiting for the loud noise to occur," he suggests. But if your child still remains fearful, Dr. Arinoldo says to remember that to your child "this is serious business! Treat it as you would any other type of fear. Let the child talk, and you, as the parent, [should] remain supportive—not critical."