Recently, a mum called me with concerns about her 6 year old daughter’s bedwetting. She described her daughter as energetic, healthy, outgoing, and generally very happy. She enjoyed riding her bike, painting, swinging as high as possible and telling jokes. In fact, the only thing that seemed to get this little girl down was her bedwetting.
They’d tried waking her up during the night, but as a sound sleeper she was difficult to rouse. They’d tried cutting back on liquids after 4 pm, with a consistent bedtime routine that included at least two bathroom trips before lights out. They’d also reminded her to go often throughout the day. But, she continued to wet her bed a few times a week. So, the mum turned to pull-ups to help ease her little girl’s stress at nighttime.
With that solution in place, the mum’s goal was to learn how to help her daughter feel less upset and ashamed after a bedwetting incident. It was so hard for this mum to watch her child struggle with something she had so little control over. (You can relate to that, right?) It’s especially difficult when there isn’t a quick fix.
The Continence Foundation of Australia estimates that1 in 5 Australian children wet their beds on a regular basis, and here’s the thing: Bedwetting isn’t considered a problem until after the age of 7 or 8. It generally results from immature bladder function, and that’s perfectly normal in young children.
Knowing the facts is one thing, but it can be hard to convince a tearful 6-year-old that bedwetting is normal when she doesn’t know anyone else with the same problem. Without proper emotional support, bedwetting can impact a child’s self-esteem. The good news is that parents can help their kids cope with the big emotions that often accompany bedwetting by following a few simple tips.
1. Help them understand it. You may try to protect your child by saying “It’s not your fault” and “It happens to lots of kids;” however, those words aren’t very comforting to her. She probably feels certain that none of her friends have this problem and she’s worried that other kids will find out about her bedwetting. A better approach is to explain why bedwetting occurs. Tell her that it’s not from laziness or not trying hard enough; rather, bedwetting is a matter of her bladder needing more time to develop. Very often, deep sleepers struggle with bedwetting, too; they’re sleeping so soundly that they aren’t getting the signal that their bladders are full and they need to wake and go to the bathroom.
2. Share your own bedwetting stories. Chances are, someone else in your family wet the bed as a child (bedwetting tends to run in families). Talk about it; knowing there is a genetic component can relieve your child of some of the feelings of guilt and shame that he may be feeling about bedwetting. It’s fine to say that millions of kids have this problem, but talking about a specific person that he knows who struggled with it will help normalise bedwetting and make him feel less alone.
3. Talk about your child’s feelings. She may try to hide from (or push down) difficult emotions because it’s easier to pretend something isn’t happening than to work through it. Help your child verbalise her feelings about bedwetting by checking in frequently; feelings charts are a great way to start the convo. Make sure she knows that you love her unconditionally and that you are there to help her.
4. End teasing about bedwetting. Siblings tease each other and your child might fear being teased about bedwetting. So, it’s a good idea to establish boundaries about how the bedwetter is treated in your family. When you help siblings understand the problem and talk openly as a family, you remove some of the mystery of it. If siblings understand bedwetting and how it affects the child, they will be less likely to tease about it. Just in case: Make sure the lines are clear. Teasing about bedwetting is never okay.
5. Help your child feel comfortable at night. You child may develop sleep problems if he consistently feels anxious about bedwetting, so it’s important to create a soothing sleep environment (and routine) for him. Guided relaxation and soothing music can help him calm his mind before falling asleep; but each child prefers a different routine. Work with him to come up with one that will help him get a good night’s sleep that’s worry-free.
More tips for tricky situations
- Common Mistakes Parents Make When Dealing with Bedwetting
- How to Deal with Constantly Hungry Kids (Without Losing Your Mind)
- The Way I Dealt with My 9-Year-Old Daughter’s Separation Anxiety