Expert / 8 August, 2019 / Alicia Eaton
One of the biggest mistakes parent’s make is not to talk about the problem. It’s understandable because let’s face it, bedwetting is an embarrassing problem for your child and so it makes sense not to make a big deal out of it. But avoiding the topic all together means your child won’t necessarily have a clear idea of what’s expected of them and what they need to do in order to keep their bed dry at night.
It’s no-good allowing things to plod along just as they’ve always done in the hope that miraculously your child will suddenly become dry, it’s unlikely to happen. Your child needs a clear set of instructions.
If the idea of having a face-to-face conversation feels uncomfortable, think about having it when you’re driving along in the car or walking side by side.
Many sleep deprived parents will ‘lift’ their sleeping child and carry them to the bathroom late in the evening just as they’re going to bed themselves. They hope that popping them on the loo for one last wee before going back to bed again will enable them to stay dry for the rest of the night.
This may work with a really young child of say, four or five years old but continuing to do this for many years will only make things worse for you.
By using the ‘lifting’ method you are doing the exact opposite of what you’re hoping to achieve. You are actively training your child to release urine when they are half asleep. You are also helping them develop a need to go to the toilet in the middle of the night.
Habits can develop very quickly and it only needs a couple of weeks of taking your child to bathroom at 11pm, for their bodies to automatically begin to expect this to happen. However well intentioned, it’s not helpful, so best to avoid it.
It might seem easier to avoid wet beds – but continuing to use pull-up pants or nappies after the age of 6 is another big mistake.
Wearing waterproof pull-up pants after the age of 6 creates an obstacle for the vital mind-body connection that’s needed to stay dry at night. The absorbency of these pants is now so good that your child never needs to experience feelings of wetness. That makes it a lot harder for them to gain control of their body. Messages need to be travelling between your child’s skin and brain in order to control the bladder.
The pants also offer no incentive for your child to keep themselves dry at night and encourages them to see themselves as a bedwetter, believing that there’s simply nothing they can do about it.
But don’t suddenly stop using them, it’s best to put a date in the diary for a few weeks’ ahead and tell your child that they’ll be able to stop using them soon. This can sometimes be enough to encourage them to keep dry at night.
Parents used to be advised to restrict their child’s drinks after a certain time in the day so the bladder would have time to empty itself by bedtime. It might seem like common sense but restricting fluid intake can make children constipated and constipation is a common cause of bedwetting as an overly full bowel will rest heavily on the bladder at night making it more difficult to control. It’s best to make sure your child has plenty to drink during the day and gradually taper it off in the evening.
Fruits such as melon, strawberries and grapes act as a diuretic and will encourage your child’s body to release more water at night, not less. It’s best to eat fruit in the mornings only if you’re trying to help your child learn how to stay dry at night.
It’s pretty obvious that getting angry or punishing a child won’t work when it comes to changing their behaviour. No child wants to hang on to a bedwetting problem – if they could have stopped sooner, they would have. When we feel unhappy and stressed it becomes much harder to make changes.
So, it may surprise you to learn that bribes and rewards are also not helpful.
On the face of it, some sort of recognition might sound like a good idea and offering a carrot may well make all the difference to your child’s level of motivation. Rewarding and praising children has grown in popularity to such a degree that few of us stop to question whether it’s actually a good idea. But studies show that when children expect or anticipate rewards, they can actually end up performing more poorly.
Their attention, focus and awareness needs to be on the ‘goal’ – keeping that bed dry at night. Introducing the idea of new trainers or toys into the mix only serves as a distraction.
Many parents believe their child sleeps too deeply and that’s the reason for their bedwetting but the latest thinking is that these children are not sleeping deeply enough.
If your child is going to be expected to get up in the middle of the night to visit the bathroom it makes sense to leave the lights on. However, sleep experts agree that night-lights are best switched off in the bedroom. Your child will experience a deeper, better quality sleep if the room is dark and this alone may ensure a dry night.
It is possible to buy night-lights with motion sensors – they are only activated when they sense movement ie. someone getting out of bed. This could be a better solution to your problem. If your child is sleeping with a light on in the bedroom, gradually wean them off it.
Perhaps the most common mistake of all is giving up too easily. Once you’ve had that vital conversation with your child about getting a plan in place to stop this bedwetting problem and decided on a course of action to take off pull-ups and stop lifting, stick with it. Don’t give up!
It may be tempting to go back if your child has a run of wet beds, but you’ll be sending out a message that they can’t solve this problem alone. If that happens act like a detective and look for clues elsewhere. Keep a diary and record what your child eats, what they did during the day be it a school day or weekend, whether their sleep was disturbed etc. Each time you have a wet or dry night you’ll be able to look back and see what they did in the previous 24 hours and this may well provide the answer.
Alicia Eaton is a trained psychotherapist, and author of Stop Bedwetting in Seven Days published by Practical Inspiration Publishing. To find out more go to Stop Bed Wetting in 7 Days.
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