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Discover How To Be Supportive About Bedwetting

Howard J. Bennett, MD
A laughing mother and her toddler lay on a bed together

Last Updated: 02/10/21
Read Time: 4 minutes

If your child is wetting the bed at night, you’re surely wondering why — and it there’s anything you can do to reduce the likelihood of them waking up wet. Another important question to ask is how you can show support for them. Given bedwetting often affects self-esteem, conveying love and patience is every bit as important as a willingness to get those sheets changed.

Bedwetting Can Affect Kids' Self-Esteem

It’s hard for children to deal with a problem that occurs when they’re sleeping. Even more frustrating is the fact that kids don’t know when it’s going to happen. While some children wet the bed every night, most do it less often. But the bottom line is 5 million children go to sleep at night not knowing if their bed will be wet or dry in the morning.

A recent study from Acta Paediatrica evaluated how medical disorders affected a child’s self-esteem. Researchers looked at children with heart disease, asthma and bedwetting and found that children who wet the bed had more negative self-esteem than the other two groups. The study did not address why this was so, but common sense may provide an explanation. Of the three groups, children who wet the bed are most likely to blame themselves for their problem.

Moving Beyond Bedwetting Myths

Having supportive parents is important for kids who are experiencing nighttime wetting, but many parents are uninformed about why it’s happening and what they can or can’t do to help. As a result, they’re likely to believe common myths about bedwetting including:

  • Myth 1: Only little kids wet the bed.
  • Myth 2: Children who wet the bed are too lazy to get up at night to pee.
  • Myth 3: If children didn’t drink after dinner, they would be dry in the morning.
  • Myth 4: Bedwetting always goes away on its own, so it’s not worth treating.
  • Myth 5: If a child put their mind to it, they could be dry anytime they wanted to. 

If parents believe these myths, they may intentionally or unintentionally convey the information to their children. And those kids may, in turn, end up feeling badly about themselves.

Be Supportive if Your Child Experiences Bedwetting

Understanding the truth about bedwetting is an important first step. Once you understand what your child is experiencing — and that it isn’t their fault — you can prevent or undo the damage these myths may cause and provide bedwetting support. There are a number of specific things you can do to reduce the stress associated with bedwetting:

  • Talk to your child about what causes bedwetting. Remind them that bedwetting is no one’s fault.
  • Let children know that lots of kids have the same problem. Because it’s hard for children to appreciate how big the number 5 million is, keep the following statistic in mind: You would have to fill up a professional baseball stadium 100 times to find seats for 5 million people!
  • Do not punish or shame children for being wet at night. Taking a non-punitive approach when your kid is wet at night can help reduce the stress they’re feeling. Remember that punishment comes in many forms. It can be obvious like grounding a child or taking away privileges such as TV or computer time. But it can also be subtler, like not buying the child new sheets or clothes because they will ruin them with repeated wetting episodes.
  • Make sure the child’s siblings don’t tease them about wetting the bed. It is normal for brothers and sisters to argue, but medical problems should be off limits.
  • Let children know if anyone in the family wet the bed growing up. This includes parents, aunts, uncles and even cousins. Knowing the problem is a family trait will help them feel like the problem is not their fault. If one parent wet the bed after 5 years old, their children have about 40% chance of bedwetting. If both parents wet the bed as children, their children have about a 70% chance of bedwetting. 
  • Encourage your child to use the bathroom at night. Having a nightlight or a flashlight nearby can help them feel more comfortable if they get up.
  • Maintain a low-key attitude after wetting episodes. Goodnites® NightTime Underwear help by reducing the amount of laundry you have to do when your child is wet at night and help them feel more secure too — making everyone’s lives easier.
  • Encourage your child to help you clean up. Changing the sheets with you or getting out clean pajamas can make your child feel like they’re actively dealing with the challenge you face together.
  • Praise children for success. Show positivity when they wake up at night to urinate, have smaller wet spots, help remake the bed or have a dry night.

While bedwetting may last for months or even years, it’s possible to keep positive through the journey. Remember that children are very sensitive to their parents’ emotions. Even if you’re privately stressed — or tired from waking up at night to change the sheets — do your best to keep those feelings to yourself. If you handle bedwetting with kindness and concern, it will help prevent your child from feeling bad.

Dr. Bennett is the author of Waking Up Dry: A Guide to Help Children Overcome Bedwetting and Max Archer, Kid Detective: The Case of the Wet Bed.