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Helping Bedwetters: Tips From the Trenches

Parents and doctors offer their best tips for helping your bedwetting child -- and you -- cope.

Don't Pressure, "Guilt Trip," or Punish Bedwetters

"The more pressure that is put on a child, the worse it is," says Robert Mendelson, MD, a pediatrician in Portland, Ore. "A lot of parents want to punish their child because they wake up wet in the morning." That’s not the right course, he tells them.

Steven Parker, MD, convinced parents by telling them it would be comparable to a wife saying to a husband (or vice versa): "I don't like it when you sleep and drool, or sleep and snore. I am going to punish you for that."

Offer Support and Encouragement to Bedwetters

Being a bedwetter can have a big impact, especially when a kid is ready for important childhood rituals such as going to camp or sleeping over a friend's house. Allow the child to express their feelings, Parker said. Reassure your child that the problem isn't his fault. Tell them it's understandable to feel frustrated but that this will pass.

Work with camp counselors, Bennett suggests. When one of his bedwetting patients went to camp, the counselor told the kids in his cabin they would draw straws to see which child had to get up first in the morning. He made sure the bedwetting child got the short straw. Then he helped him in the morning if the bed was wet.

Sometimes kids wear disposable underwear for sleepovers and camp. That’s fine as long as the child is OK with it, but don’t force bedwetting undergarments on a child.

Thinking about how difficult the problem is for them can make you more compassionate, says Susan, 49, whose son Mike, now 10, was a bedwetter at age 6 but got dry after using a bed alarm. "It's a horrible issue, and it's embarrassing [for them]," she says. "I just felt bad for him."

If there are other children in the family who are already dry at night, enforce a strict no-teasing rule about the bedwetting.

Make It Easy on Bedwetters -- and Yourself

Consider the "double bubble" method of making the bed. That involves using a plastic sheet to protect the mattress, then a regular sheet and a blanket. On top of that, repeat the layer of plastic sheet, regular sheet and blanket.

When it's age appropriate, teach the child how to strip off the top layer, our doctors say. That way, there's no fumbling for fresh linens at 2 a.m. Be sure fresh pajamas are by the bed, too, so your child can change into dry ones quickly. You might also keep disposable underwear on hand for younger children, so they can change themselves in the middle of the night.

If a child needs parental help, split up the tasks or assign it in a way that agrees with both partners. Jane's husband got up when necessary in the middle of the night when Billy was bedwetting, and she helped at other times. "My husband is always able to go back to sleep," she says, "and I'm not."

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