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Getting to the Bottom of Bed-Wetting
By Michael Plontz

Consistently wetting the bed--beyond the age deemed reasonable by society--can be a traumatic experience for a child who doesn’t understand why. Did you know that most children who experience enuresis (the clinical term for bed-wetting) have at least one parent who had the same problem? A parent could de-stress the child, and maybe the situation, by confiding that in their child.

Enuresis affects 20% of children at five years old, five percent at age ten, and two percent at 15. One out of 100 children with enuresis may continue wetting the bed into adulthood. It is over twice as common in boys as it is in girls. While it is common for children five and under to occasionally wet the bed, the child who has repeated episodes at six or beyond should be taken to a professional.

Enuresis does not necessarily mean that a child has emotional or physical problems. Sometimes the cause is as simple as having a delay in the development of the bladder. The smaller bladder cannot possibly hold a large amount of urine. Some researchers believe that it could be related to toilet training. The training was either too early or too strongly enforced. It could also be caused by an adjustment problem, parents who are too critical, a reaction to a new situation—perhaps a new sibling in the house—or a regression of some kind.

Physical factors other than the slow development of the bladder are rare, but may include lesions in the lower spinal cord, diabetes, or urinary tract infection. A physical and a urinalysis could rule out physical causes and infection or diabetes.

Be prepared to answer several questions if you decide to seek professional help. It would probably behoove you to keep a journal documenting the following information. Of course, journal entries should be made in private—not in front of the child. It might make he or she feel too self-conscious. Here are the questions:

When did this begin?
How often does it occur?
Are there any “dry” periods? If so, how long?
Is control while awake a problem?
Is there any daytime urination? How often?
Does enuresis cause the child to awaken?
Is the child shamed by his bed-wetting?
Does the rest of the family know about the problem?
Is there any punishment involved?
How does the family treat the problem?
Are there any beverages given containing caffeine or alcohol?
Does stress increase the incidents? Does anything in particular make the problem worse?
Does anything improve the situation?
Are there any medications taken?
Are there other symptoms such as pain in the back or abdomen, or a fever?
Is there a family history of the problem?
Are any methods of prevention such as diapers, alarms, rewards, or restricting fluids used?

Just as important as seeking professional help is treating the problem correctly at home. Yelling at or punishing a child may only make the situation worse. Not only that, it could create feelings of low self-worth and poor self-esteem. The best thing to do is talk about it openly (if the child is so inclined) keeping in mind that expressing confidence, reassurance and encouragement to a child could be the best medicine of all.

 


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