Bed wetting in older children is such a hidden problem that it is rarely discussed for fear of bullying or embarrassment. Yet the impact of bedwetting for children and their families can be significant and can increase as the child gets older. It can affect children’s level of self-esteem, and they often quietly feel a huge amount of shame. The frustration for a parent can increase with interrupted sleep and constant washing. So what are the dos and don’ts of how to deal with your child wetting the bed?
Studies have shown that punishing bedwetting leads to depression and a reduced quality of life. It is similar to punishing someone for grinding their teeth when sleeping. The vast majority of children will be totally and utterly oblivious to it. Some children may wake up mid-flow and still be unaware in time or they may find it difficult to wake up enough to get out of bed. Other children will dream they are going to the toilet and so wet the bed. Punishing them for something they have no control of, or shaming them in the hope it will change their behaviour can actually be damaging to the child and to the parent-child relationship.
Putting pressure on the child to stop bedwetting can also be harmful. It is, in effect, setting your child up for failure as they don’t know how to stop wetting the bed. If the child constantly fails their parent’s expectations to stay dry, this feeling of failure can also affect their self-esteem and spread into other aspects of their lives.
So what should you do? Should you ignore it? If the child is under the age of five or six it is sensible to treat the bedwetting as normal. Children learn to do different things at different times and the less parents make an issue of it, the easier it will be for the child to stop. It is useful however to read up on how to help your child to stay dry at night. For instance certain drinks such as milk can increase bedwetting, and overtired children often wet the bed too.
If your child is still in nappies, stop using them for a week or so, and see if there are any signs of your child becoming dry. It can make life easier for everyone if you use an over the sheet mattress protector because when the mattress protector gets wet you can simply take it off the bed and the sheet will still be dry underneath. If there are any dry nights, use lots of praise and see what happens. If there are no signs of staying dry or the process is frustrating everyone, then stop and try again later. The more positive you keep the experience the easier it will be next time you try.
If your child is around seven or older and still not showing any signs of stopping bedwetting then it is useful to take action. It is possible he or she could still grow out of it, however it could continue for some years. Firstly it is best to get your child checked out by a doctor to ensure there is no medical reason for the bedwetting. It is also helpful to tell your child that thousands of children still wet the bed at their age and reassure them that they will become dry. You can talk to them about their achievements encourage them to have self-compassion. If there is no medical reason for the bed wetting, it is then useful to look at some bedwetting solutions. Options include the bedwetting alarm and the Stay Dry at Night Bedwetting Program.
The bedwetting alarm is a devise that when wet, sets off a loud alarm to awaken the child. Although it can work well, it is also a great sleep disturber for the whole family. The bell only sounds after the person has started to urinate which is why it may not work for some children.
Stay Dry at Night is a gentle and effective bedwetting solution. Key to the program is a recording customised for your child to help build the communication between the brain and bladder, to increase awareness of the sensations of the bladder becoming full at night and help them to get out of bed to go to the toilet. It encourages the child to remember some things he or she has achieved and builds confidence that they can learn to do things automatically. It is set to beautiful music and is a very calming solution. Children listen to it in bed as they drift off to sleep. Read about this natural bedwetting solution here www.staydryatnight.com.
Although bedwetting is hugely disruptive for everyone, it is useful to understand it, learn how you can help your child to stop wetting and try to stay positive. Be as kind, supportive and caring as you can. You aren’t on your own, so when you are changing the sheets again in the middle of the night, think of the thousands of other parents doing the same thing. Remember that children don’t wet the bed on purpose.
As bedwetting is such a hidden issue, it would be helpful to other parents if you can share your stories or leave a comment below.
Austin. TA. 2006: Resolving Adult Enuresis
Faten Nabeel Al-Zaben, Mohammad Gamal Sehlo. May 2015: Punishment for bedwetting is associated with child depression and reduced quality of life. Child Abuse & Neglect, Volume 43, Pages 22 - 29