parents

She can't tie her own shoelaces. But daddy is no longer allowed to help her get dressed.

After her swimming lesson, her dad won’t be able to help her get dressed.

Picture this: Lucy O’Brien is at swimming lessons with her dad.

She’s only five-years-old and after a full day of learning, playing and having to fend for herself at Big School, she’s ready to drop.

The lesson is over. Lucy is cold, tired and fed up.

But Lucy is five now, and the world worries about five-year-olds being around grown men alone. So instead of Lucy being allowed to go into the showers with her loving dad, she’s sent to the women’s change room and left to fend for herself.

Lucy can hardly write her name. She can’t read yet as she has only started school. She has trouble opening her lunch box, and at night she still wears a pull-up nappy, “just in case”. She can’t tie her own shoe laces.

But society tells her, “you are five now, Lucy, it’s time to grow up.” In a world of overparenting of the “marshmallow generation” the latest installment is playing itself out right before our eyes.

A Sydney swim school is under fire from parents for its ban on primary school-aged kids being in the same change room as the opposite sex.

Let’s be clear: “primary school children” in NSW can mean anyone from four-and-a-half to 12 years old.

Primary students will not be allowed in the change rooms of the opposite sex.

That’s four-and-a-half year-olds being sent away from their parents, as there are concerns they may be sexually aware of the bodies of others in the dressing rooms.

The sign at the Aquabliss Swim School on the upper North Shore of Sydney was prompted by the complaints of parents about opposite sex youngsters being present whilst they were trying to shower and change.

A local Facebook group has taken up the cause, and the reaction of the parents was generally one of shock.

“My six-year-old son could hardly dress himself at the start of the year,” says one Mum discussing the ban. “How the hell is he going to have a shower, dry off and dress himself without me there?”

Another asks, “are they prepared to provide same-gender police-checked parent-approved registered nurses to supervise said children in getting showered and dressed?”

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“I would never let him go in without supervision, who knows who is lurking in there?” she adds.

Another writes, “remember the young girl who was killed in the toilets in WA? Was she with her father who couldn’t accompany her? I change my girls all the time with mums with young boys. Put a towel around them if you’re concerned!”

The case in Western Australia this parent is referring to was actually an eight year old girl called Sofia Rodrigez-Urrutia-Shu. She was sexually assaulted and murdered in a toilet while her uncle and brother were knocking on the door. Her attacker was ultimately convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Whilst it was a different situation, it is scenarios like these that play out in parents’ minds.

Others though, are supportive of the ban. One comments, “there has to be a cut off somewhere I suppose. Otherwise you’d have teenager boys going into the Ladies with their mums.”

She will be left to fend for herself.

Child and Adolescent psychologist Michael Carr Gregg says that the edict is “the product of puritanical, antediluvian thinking.”

He told Mamamia that: “there is no documented harm from boys seeing girls or women naked. What is the harm? Who are we trying to protect? “

This seems to be exactly the view from parents who attend the centre.

They question how on one hand children cannot be left alone in cars, or at home at this very young age, but yet they are expected to enter showers alone.

For Michael Carr Gregg, the age of independence for a child is not something that can be written on a sign, or set in stone.

“One size does not fit all. The key message for parents is that they teach their kids to keep themselves safe. Go with their instinct and learn protective behaviours.”

What do you think? Is this another example of over blown political correctness? Or do you feel uncomfortable being around children of the opposite sex in these situations?

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