Victoria’s daughter, Olivia, has been able to stay dry overnight ever since she was successfully potty trained when she was two and a half.
But, recently, since starting first grade at a new school, Olivia has wet the bed a few times per week. When children go through periods of transitions, change or stress—such as a big move, changing schools, loss of a family member—they can experience what’s called “secondary enuresis.” This means that a child who once was able to control their bladder overnight for a period of at least 6 months is now unable to stay dry overnight.
While children eventually grow out of bedwetting, there are things you can do now to support your child through their bedwetting relapse.
First, reassure your child
Let your child know that you are on their side while you work through this challenge together. They may be embarrassed or ashamed, and your reaction can make all the difference. Tell them you love them and you will figure this out together.
Then, identify the cause
Bedwetting is usually the result of lack of bladder control, but it can also be genetic, so if you or your partner wet the bed as a child, chances are your child may, too. Bedwetting can also be caused by certain medical conditions, so it is important to talk with your child’s pediatrician to rule out any underlying medical causes.
In Olivia’s case, her bedwetting started when she experienced changes to her routine (going back to school after a year of distance learning) and felt the stress of starting a new school.
Take a moment to check in with your child. See if you can uncover what’s causing your child distress. What are they worried about? What is hard for them now? If they are sleeping deeply after joining a soccer team, they just don’t wake up when their bladder is full, and it may be a matter of adjusting to the new activity. It could be anything from conflict with friends; a bully at school; concern about an upcoming exam or performance; a new sibling at home; or loss of a family pet.
Set your child up for success
In addition, you can also support your child by making some adjustments to their bedtime routine and bedroom setup:
- Make sure your child’s bed is easy to get in and out of.
- Avoid flannel pajamas and heavy bedding—it’s harder to feel when they are wet.
- Use a nightlight so your child can move through their room easier at night.
- Put a nightlight in the bathroom so the way there is well lit.
- Protect the mattress with a waterproof undersheet.
- Have a second set of clean sheets nearby if they need to be changed, or make the bed with two sets of sheets with an additional waterproof undersheet between the sets.
- Avoid using overnight diapers for children over 3-years old. These are embarrassing, and may cause harm to their self-esteem.
- Avoid caffeine, sugar, and juice, especially in the evening hours.
- Increase fluid intake in the earlier part of the day. A good goal is 40% of their fluid in the morning, 40% in the afternoon, and 20% in the evening.
- Ask your child to use the bathroom at the beginning of the bedtime routine and then again right before going to sleep. Even if they don’t feel like they need to go, they can make sure their bladder is empty.
Olivia’s mom made sure to have a clean set of sheets and pajamas ready to go each night so when Olivia did have an accident, Victoria could swap out the sheets quickly and change her daughter into clean pajamas. By making the accident “not a big deal,” it helped Oliva feel less embarrassed by her bedwetting and reduced stress on everyone in the family.
Your child will especially benefit from some extra compassion and patience during this time in their life. If you have concerns about your child’s health and development, don’t hesitate to reach out to your child’s pediatrician.
This article is brought to you by Parenting Now Parenting Educators and authors Amanda Bedortha, Claire Davis and Lynne Grilley. Parenting Now is passionate about happy, healthy families. For more information about Parenting Now please visit their website (https://parentingnow.org/) or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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