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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
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
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
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
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.