Helping Your Kids Gain a Sense of Control Over Nighttime Issues
Dr. Wolffe Nadoolman, MD, Pediatrician
Let’s face it – you have successfully achieved a great deal of independence if you’re mature enough to be in school, without a parent around, for most of the day. School-age children decide what to eat for lunch, figure out how to get to class, plan where to meet their friends and do a lot of other important tasks with minimal adult supervision.
A child between the ages of five and 11 years of age is keenly aware of this independence. They love the feeling of being in control, the way we all do. Nobody’s trying to manage their every minute. But in a new or problematic situation, being independent can mean feeling alone. That can be frightening and upsetting. From their perspective, big kids can do things on their own.
Children aren’t any different from the rest of us. Most people feel most secure when we have a sense of control over the world around us. This sense of mastery over our lives is an essential part of the development that takes place in the school-age years. Every child wants this sense of control and it makes parents feel powerful to show them how they can achieve it. But, like all of us, children sometimes face situations they can’t control. Naturally enough, they can have a hard time dealing with these obstacles. They need the help of a parent to show them how they can manage stressful situations successfully, yet maintain their sense of independence. In general, the technique is to find some aspect that they can control and then teach them to master it. As their confidence builds, they might be more willing to try new approaches. This strategy keeps the parent in a loving, supportive role.
In children this age, bedwetting can be a challenge for both parent and child. The child is old enough to feel bad about what they perceive as a failure of control. (Medically speaking, it’s not about will power or bad habits.) It’s very important that parents are communicating with their child that bedwetting is not their fault or a problem they have to face on their own. The parent’s role is to help children regain their sense of control. First, face the problem with sensitivity and discretion (don’t bring it up at Thanksgiving dinner in front of the relatives and don’t bring it up in front of his friends.). Then show your child that you will approach this as a team, together. Decide together to ask the doctor about it, and go online together to learn more. For many children, regaining that sense of control is as easy as trying a product like GoodNites®, which allows them to wake up with a dry bed.