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Health & Parenting

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Could Stress or Anxiety Be Causing Your Child’s Bedwetting?

Stress and anxiety may not cause a child to start wetting the bed, but it can make bedwetting worse. Find out what you can do to help.

Bedwetting and Stress: Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation resulting from stress can also cause a child to wet the bed.

That’s because bedwetting mostly occurs in people who are deep sleepers, and if friends, school, or things at home have a child so keyed up they’re losing sleep, they can easily become sleep deprived -- and end up going into an even deeper sleep. The result may be bedwetting.

But “again, there’s no major association between bedwetting and stress,” Atala tells WebMD. People attribute an increase or reoccurrence of bedwetting to stress, when it’s behaviors caused by stress that’s the problem.

The Stress of Bedwetting: Helping Kids Cope

For the 5 million U.S. children over age 6 who wet the bed, stress itself doesn’t cause bedwetting, but bedwetting definitely causes stress. And that stress can be hard for kids to manage. There are bound to be activities a child feels they’re missing out on, they may be dealing with teasing by friends, or they may suffer from low self-esteem. Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to help your child physically and emotionally.

First, if your child was dry for awhile, try again the methods that got them dry before. If bedwetting alarms, behavioral changes, getting your child up at night to go to the bathroom, or a combination of these worked before, try them again. Experts at the American Academy of Family Physicians as well as urologists like Atala also offers these tips:

  • Always be supportive of your child.
  • Make sure they know that bedwetting isn’t their fault.
  • Don’t blame or punish your child for wetting the bed.
  • Let your child know bedwetting tends to run in families.
  • Encourage your child to use the bathroom at night, then provide nightlights to make that easier.
  • Urge your child to do the same things other kids do, like going to camp and sleepovers.
  • Reward your child not for dry nights, but for following their bedwetting treatment plan.
  • When bedwetting accidents occur, praise your child for trying to stay dry, and for helping to clean up.

That last point confuses some parents. Won’t it add even more stress or embarrassment if you ask your child to help change their bed and do laundry?

To the contrary, Scharf says. Sharing responsibility for wetting the bed helps a child feel they’re actively tackling the problem. It can even give them a sense of pride because they’re able to handle an aspect of bedwetting on their own.

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