Overcoming the Bed-wetting Blues

Michael Grose

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Being greeted by the familiar smell of urine soaked sheets as you wake a child is not the best way to start the day. And changing wet bedding is not the ideal way to gain an appetite for breakfast. But for many parents dealing with bed wetting is a regular part of their morning routine.

Staying dry at night is a common problem for many children. Between 15-20% of six year olds regularly wet their beds at night and 7% of ten year olds have bed wetting difficulties. There is little difference between the sexes although there is a slightly higher incidence among boys.

Bed wetting knows no social or geographical boundaries. It matters little which side of the tracks a child is born. However it is more important who he is related to as many children who wet the bed have fathers or uncles who did the same.

Children who wet the bed are not slow, abnormal or unbalanced. According to a spokesperson from Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital’s Enuresis Clinic these children are generally normal, well-adjusted kids. However they have not developed sufficient bladder control to stay dry at night. Put simply, when the bladder fills up their brain doesn’t react to the message it receives so it empties itself. Some children’s bladders are too small to cope with a night’s supply.

Bed wetting is not easy for children. They are generally embarrassed about their wetting and find it uncomfortable sleeping in soaked bedding. Some experience a lack of confidence and feel that they will never be able to stay dry.

Children generally become experts at covering up their bed-wetting difficulties. They avoid sleepovers with friends and keep bed-wetting out of their playground conversations. Often attending a school camp can be their undoing.

Many of the methods that parents use to break their children’s bed-wetting habits don’t work. Waking children in the middle of the night for a toilet visit and restricting fluid intake before bed only avoid the problem rather than cure it. In fact some therapists encourage children to increase their consumption of fluids so that the bladder size may be increased. The use of medically prescribed drugs is a useful temporary measure but they are ineffective in the long term when children are removed from medication.

So what should parents do?

First arrange for your child to have a medical examination to rule out the possibility of physical problems.

Then help your child be in charge of his bladder with the use of an enuresis alarm. Enuresis alarms have an 80-85% success rate if they are used under the supervision of a qualified practitioner such as a doctor, nurse or therapist.

Enuresis alarms work quite simply. When a child wets at night an alarm sounds, waking the youngster. Once awake, the child goes to the toilet, checks the size of the wet patch and changes the bedding. The alarm conditions children to learn how to feel a full bladder. It takes from four to eight weeks for children to stay dry at night with the aid of an alarm.

According to the Royal Children’s Hospital children who are six or older and regularly wet their beds two or three times a week will benefit from the alarm. It is also essential that a child wants to be dry.

There are also vibrating alarms available for teenagers, which are quieter and less conspicuous.

Parents can also assist their children conquer bed-wetting in the following ways.

Provide children with a thorough physical knowledge about urinating and staying dry.

Encourage them to take responsibility for the mopping up tasks relative to their age and stage of development.

Develop good habits during the day such as holding on rather than visiting the toilet too regularly and avoiding bladder stimulants such as Coca Cola.

Reassure children that they can be dry. Some children have hardly had a dry night so they need plenty of encouragement.

Make sure their bedding is easy to change and includes absorbent sheets.

Avoid punishing, embarrassing or labeling children as bed-wetters. These degrading reactions will ensure that bed-wetting continues as children become fearful of their parents’ reactions. Anxious children are more likely to wet at night.

Of course as the statistics show most children grow out of bed-wetting. But much of the trauma for both parents and children can be minimised with the help of an enuresis alarm.

For a thorough understanding of bedwetting and toilet training read Boss of the Bladder and Easy Toilet Training by Janet Hall available at parentingideas.com.au

“Michael Grose is one of Australia’s most popular parenting educators. He conducted the first parenting seminar for Federal politicians in Parliament House, Canberra. For practical ideas and information to help you raise happy, well-behaved, confident kids visit http://www.parentingideas.com.au While you are there subscribe to Happy Kids, Michael’s email newsletter and get a fresh boost of parenting ideas in your inbox each week. "


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