For centuries, parents have been trying to find bedwetting solutions, often in vain.
One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is the fact that many kids who wet the bed feel a deep sense of shame and embarrassment about their problem, which can contribute to low self-esteem. The good news is that there are things you can do as a parent to help minimize the negative emotional effects of bedwetting, also known as eneuresis.
1. Discuss bedwetting with your child’s pediatrician.
Many children wet the bed until they’re about 6 years old and then stop, with no need to seek medical treatment. But if your child is older than 6 or if the bedwetting problem is causing you or your child concern, it’s a good idea to visit your pediatrician. The doctor can do a series of tests to rule out abnormalities that might be causing the problem, and help put your child’s mind at ease about bedwetting.
Sometimes, knowing that bedwetting is a medical problem treated by doctors can help alleviate a child’s shame or embarrassment. You and your child can discuss that you’re going to address bedwetting the same way you would address a sore throat or sprained ankle, for example.
The doctor may give recommendations for your child, such as limiting liquid intake and peeing prior to bedtime, keeping a regular bathroom schedule, avoiding foods with caffeine and red dyes before bedtime, monitoring him for constipation and paying attention to her sleep routine.
Your child may feel like she’s doing something wrong if she wets the bed, so you and the doctor can let her know that it’s not her fault. It can be useful to explain to children who wet the bed that enuresis is often caused by a slightly delayed development of the bladder and the nerves that interact with it. You can also talk about the fact that many kids who wet the bed sleep so soundly, they fail to wake up when they need to go to the bathroom.
2. Tell your child bedwetting is common.
Bedwetting isn’t something kids talk about with each other, so your child might feel like he’s the only kid his age who still wets the bed. Be sure to tell him that millions of children, and teenagers too, regularly wet their beds. In fact, it’s quite likely that he knows someone else with a bedwetting problem -- he just doesn’t know it.
Bedwetting often runs in families, too. Children whose parents did not wet the bed have a 15% chance of being bedwetters, which goes up to 44% if one parent wet the bed and rises all the way to 77% if both parents wet the bed as children. So, if you or your partner wet the bed when you were young, share this information with your child. Telling them you had the same problem can minimize the embarrassment he feels and give him hope that he will get over the problem.
3. Don’t get angry when your child wets the bed.
Chances are your child is already very upset and ashamed for having wet the bed again last night. And, believe it or not, he didn’t do it on purpose. No matter how tempted you are to get mad, it’s important for you to stay calm and positive. In fact, punishing your child for wetting the bed can actually make the problem worse, and damage your relationship with your child.
One of the best things you can do to help your bedwetting child’s self-esteem is to encourage him and give him hope that he’ll overcome the problem. Similarly, be sure to give your child accolades for waking up dry whenever it happens. If your child has siblings, be sure they know that teasing about bedwetting is not allowed.
4. Make it easy for your child to find the bathroom at nighttime.
Your goal is to have your child get up to use the bathroom in the night if she needs to, so make sure she feels comfortable doing so. It can be helpful to tell her it’s OK to go to the bathroom in the night. For children who are afraid of the dark, placing nightlights in the hallway and the bathroom can make it less scary to venture to the bathroom during the night.
To help your child get used to using the bathroom in the night, it might be helpful for you to wake her up at first to help instill the habit.
5. Encourage your child to take responsibility for wetting the bed.
Just as you don’t want to overemphasize bedwetting, it’s important that you don’t ignore it entirely, either. It can give you child a sense of empowerment and help with the embarrassment if you encourage him to help you clean up and assist with the laundry when bedwetting does occur, if he’s old enough.
It may be helpful to layer the bed with sheets and absorbable pads in between layers. Each morning, or in the middle of the night, the child can remove the wet layer and reveal a dry layer underneath. This may minimize laundry and facilitate the chore of making the bed.
6. Give your child a sense of control over bedwetting.
Many children who wet the bed despair of ever getting over their problem, which can send their self-esteem into a downward spiral. Interestingly, it’s not uncommon for children to stop wetting the bed shortly after they visit a specialist and realize there are things that can be done to stop bedwetting.
There are a number of different ways you can help your child take some ownership of his bedwetting recovery, which will instill confidence and a sense of hope. First, work with your child to create and keep a bedwetting calendar or journal. Your child can recognize dry nights with stars and even come up with different hypotheses to test. For instance, they might decide to test whether limiting soda in the evening helps minimize bedwetting occurrences and keep track of it in their bedwetting journal.
You can also encourage your child to visualize his bladder filling up overnight and imagine himself waking up to use the bathroom when he needs to urinate.
Working with your child to use a bedwetting alarm -- a device that is worn and makes noise to wake the child when it gets wet -- can also help your child feel like he is doing something to stop wetting the bed. You might want to compare your child’s active involvement in addressing bedwetting to something you do for a problem you have, such as eating a healthy diet and exercising to lose weight, or wearing glasses to help you see better.