Bed-wetting is a messy, inconvenient and expensive business. It leads to frustration and anger with a family, and guilt and shame on the part of the child.
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The causes of bed-wetting vary. Some children have small bladders; for others, the neural connection between brain and sphincter is late to develop. There are children for whom potty training has been too rigid, and tinged with anxiety; there are others who have been inadequately trained.
Normally, most children are dry by night and day by the age of three, but until age five, there will be relapses, and a child may start wetting the bed again. Often, stress factors such as a new baby in the family or going to nursery school may lead to the child reverting to bed wetting.
Bed-wetting is very common, especially in boys. What is important is why the child wets the bed. Is he or she otherwise healthy and outgoing or is the bed-wetting part of a more general anxiety? What emotional stresses are present in the life of the child, for instance, is an older child wetting the bed because of anxiety over schoolwork?
What works best with bed-wetters is a supportive approach. Since the wetting is involuntary and even where there are emotional reasons for it, the idea that it will stop if the child is punished is wrong. Remember, it is not the child’s fault that she wets the bed. Criticism and threats rarely work; extra reassurance and lots of hugs do.
Leave the lights on or buy your child a torch so that she doesn’t have to grope in the dark when she wants to go to the bathroom. A potty under the bed means she can, if necessary, empty her bladder without having to leave the bedroom.
Make sure that your child avoids last-minute drinks and ensure that she goes to the toilet before going to bed. Protect your child’s mattress with rubber sheeting and ensure his sheets and pyjamas are made of washable material.
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You might like to try a system of small rewards. What wouldn’t work though are bribes such as “I’ll buy you a bike if you stop wetting the bed.” This makes the situation worse by putting more pressure on the child.
Another method of helping a bed-wetter is the ‘buzzer’. This is a pad which goes under the bottom sheet of the bed and which sets off an alarm when the child wets. The alarm wakes the child up and she goes to the toilet to complete urination. Soon, she learns to anticipate the alarm, to go when her bladder is swollen.
Another way of gaining bladder control is called 'Day Clock Training'. Here, an alarm clock (or alarm on a digital wrist watch) is used to remind the child to go to the toilet at set intervals during the day: say, every two hours to begin with, increasing to every four hours.
Day Clock Training helps the child to hold her water for long and to gain mastery over her bladder.
Bed-wetting is no fun for the family. Neither is it any fun for the child who wets the bed. It’s not her fault; it’s her handicap and she needs practical help to overcome it, plus your sympathy, support and common sense.