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Advice for Parents

Beat the Bedwetting Blues

Three Steps to a Positive Atmosphere for Children Who Wet the Bed

It's the middle of the night. You hear a tentative knock on your bedroom door, then the plaintive voice of your child saying, "I wet the bed." You want to respond reassuringly, but you are tired and the words aren't coming to you. How do you react in just the right way?

Whether your child wets the bed every night or only periodically, you are probably concerned about the best way to handle the situation. While there are a variety of solutions to the physical problem of bedwetting (or nighttime wetting), some of which you may have already tried, no rule book exists that specifically answers how to handle the emotional turmoil of nighttime wetting, both for parent and child.

Until the issue is resolved, your response as a parent to your child's nighttime wetting is crucial. Your attitude, words and actions can foster a positive, loving atmosphere or a negative, demeaning one. You can shape your child into a confident, successful person or into a depressed, insecure person simply by the way you behave toward your child's nighttime wetting.

Here are some suggestions to make the task seem less daunting.

Foster a Positive Attitude

If you, as a parent, feel ashamed and embarrassed of your child's nighttime wetting, imagine how much more ashamed and embarrassed your child feels. Before you can help your child feel better about the problem, you need to help yourself. Find some support — be it from friends, family members or other parents who face the same issues — and talk about your feelings and frustrations. By being open, you show yourself and your child that there's nothing to be ashamed of.

Try to be calm and keep your emotions at bay just after a nighttime wetting incident. Lisa Jacoby Sutherland, a school psychologist in Wheaton, IL, says to "treat the situation with love and care." "No child wants to be wetting the bed," says Sutherland. "In fact, the humiliation is so very difficult for the child. The one major source of support — typically the parent — needs to be the child's advocate, not a greater source of pain."

Also, be aware of the fact that your child is not choosing to wet the bed. As the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry states, "Children rarely wet on purpose and usually feel ashamed about the incident. Rather than make the child feel naughty or ashamed, parents need to encourage the child and show faith that he or she will soon be able to enjoy staying dry at night." You need to see your child as dealing with a developmental setback, not perpetrating a crime.

By maintaining a healthy, positive perspective, your child will adopt a similar attitude and feel much better about his nighttime wetting.

Choose Your Words Wisely

When dealing with nighttime wetting, choosing your words has as much to do with "when" as "what." Sometimes it is better not to say very much. When a nighttime wetting incident occurs, try to minimize the amount of negative comments and simply focus on making your child more comfortable. Allowing your child to assist in the cleanup can give her a sense of responsibility, but Sutherland says the child should simply help by pulling the sheets off and putting them in the laundry. "I fear anything beyond that may lead to humiliation or be read as punitive, both of which should be avoided at all costs," she says.

Don't let the nighttime wetting incidents dominate your topics of conversation. "This should not be a huge issue in the life of the family," says Sutherland. Find opportunities to praise your child for his or her other accomplishments. Only discuss the issue when your child feels ready and wants to talk with you about it. By bringing up the topic too often or at poorly chosen times, your child will feel that his nighttime wetting problem is even bigger than it really is.

Of course, always make sure that these conversations are private so that you avoid embarrassing your child even further. Talk to siblings and other family members as well to make sure that they understand the problem and that they never tease your child about nighttime wetting.

Act with Tact

Actions speak louder than words, so do not act too quickly or too drastically when dealing with your child's nighttime wetting problem. How can you convince your child that nighttime wetting is not a big deal when you are calling every doctor and child psychiatrist in the state?

Take it one step at a time and start simple. If your child seems to only wet the bed occasionally, try to determine if any stress factors could be to blame. A change in routine, whether it is simple (like getting a new school teacher) or complex (like parents' divorce), can be a cause for nighttime wetting.

Most experts agree that stress can be a significant factor in nighttime wetting. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, "[Nighttime wetting] may follow changes or events which make the child feel insecure: moving to a new environment, losing a family member or loved one, or especially the arrival of a new baby or child in the home." Take steps to alleviate your child's stress and see if the bedwetting problem subsides.

If you cannot discern any specific stress factors, and your child's nighttime wetting problem occurs regularly, or if you feel the source of the problem is more physiological, you should talk to your child's physician and discuss ways to help overcome it.

Keep in mind that in many cases, however, the best remedy is time, says Sutherland. The National Kidney Foundation says that most children will outgrow the problem and that 15% outgrow the problem every year.

Jane, a mother of five, experienced nighttime wetting problems with two of her children. She tried everything her doctor suggested, even an alarm that would wake her child when he wet the bed. She said that these methods only helped minimally, and eventually both kids stopped wetting the bed on their own.

A simple solution to help you handle the issue until your child has outgrown it is to use disposable underpants such as GoodNites® Bedtime Pants or GoodNites* TRU-FIT* Underwear. These can save the embarrassment of waking up to wet sheets and quite a few loads of laundry.

If you do end up following a method for beating bedwetting prescribed by your child's physician, and it's a method both you and your child feel comfortable trying, be supportive, optimistic and encouraging. Above all, be patient, and don't let nighttime wetting damper your loving relationship with your child. Someday the nighttime wetting will be a memory, but your child will never forget the love and support you gave.

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