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Bedwetting Causes & Treatments

Genetics and Bedwetting: When Kids Follow in Your Footsteps

It's a peculiar joy of parents when our children inherit our winning smiles, curly hair or outgoing personalities. We like to know that our kids take after us, clear evidence that we really have passed along our genes to the next generation. However, sometimes we pass along things we wish we hadn't

Parents who suffered through a childhood of bedwetting (also known as nighttime wetting) often wish they could spare their children the discomfort of following in these particular footsteps.

It's in the Genes

Dr. Carolyn Thiedke, professor of family medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina, says genetics plays a key role in nighttime wetting. "There are probably several causes of bedwetting, but it is clear that having parents who wet the bed makes it more likely that a child will wet the bed," she says. "Children who have one parent who wet the bed have a 43% chance of wetting the bed, and if both parents wet the bed, the chance climbs to 77%."

Parents who have a personal history of nighttime wetting often find themselves parenting at least one child who wets the bed. Tamara of Dallas, TX, wet her bed daily until she was about 8 years old, then it tapered off and stopped over the next four years. She now sees her daughters following a very familiar pattern. "Kim is 12," says Tamara. "She wet nightly till age 6 and about two times a week until age 10 and just stopped at 10. Tracy is only 8 now and she wets every night just about."

However, passing on nighttime wetting genes to your children is not a simple process — or all bad. Researchers at UCLA have discovered that parents who pass on nighttime wetting to their kids are also often passing on intelligence. Their study of children with a family history of bedwetting found that children who had a lower than normal impulse to wake up when needing to urinate (often resulting in nighttime wetting) also had higher than normal IQ scores.

Been There, Done That

Greg, also of Dallas, TX, feels that his history of nighttime wetting gives him special empathy for his daughter, Samantha, who at 6 years old wets every night. "I definitely feel my own struggle, and how harshly my parents responded, has given me a soft spot for Sam that is deeper than my wife's," he says.

Parents who remember their nighttime wetting experiences as kids often have special insight into the effect it is having on their children and what they can do to help soften any distress. "I have been where she now is," says Greg of his daughter. "I do all I can to help reassure her and make it so she does not feel she is letting me down. I also work hard on making her comfortable both physically and emotionally."

Parents who wet the bed share advice that centers strongly on encouraging your child emotionally. "Relax. Take time. Be patient," says Tamara. "Offer your [child] lots and lots of hugs and reassurance. Relate to them what wetting was like for you so they know you can relate."

Knowing that Mom or Dad also wet the bed is a powerful confidence booster for kids. Tamara knows from her own experience that kids usually grow out of nighttime wetting, and she is working hard to have her daughters come through it with their self-esteem intact.

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