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Advice for Parents

A Girl’s Guide to Bedwetting

Tips for Managing Nighttime Wetting from Her Point of View

Parents know that girls and boys are different in lots of ways. What many parents don’t realize is that bedwetting, or nighttime wetting, can be more emotionally upsetting for a girl at an earlier age than it is for a boy.

Dr. Patrick C. Friman, a clinical psychologist and director of Girls and Boys Town Outpatient Behavioral Pediatrics and Family Services in Boys Town, NE, says that Dr. F. C. Verhulst, a noted psychiatrist and researcher, made the case 10 years ago for changing the diagnostic criteria of bedwetting treatment to age 5 for girls and age 8 for boys because he thought the epidemiology was so different. In other words, it’s more developmentally out of line for a girl to wet the bed at age 5 than it is for a boy.

"Girls mature emotionally more quickly and are ultimately more sensitive to the social implications of bedwetting than their male peers," says Dr. Friman. "Because of that, I do think there’s a difference in how bedwetting impacts girls and the depth of the feeling that they have about it."

Nighttime Wetting and Emotions

Hope from Washington, DC, says her daughter experienced nighttime wetting until she was about 9, and she was extremely upset by it at a very young age.

"One day we took her to the doctor when she was still fairly young — 5 or 6 — and he just said she’d grow out of it," Hope says. "It was terrible. She was sad and we were sad for her. As first-time parents, you don’t really know what’s right or wrong, and we listened to him. But in hindsight, I wish I hadn’t, because she was very conscious of it and did it impact her. Even the few things he did suggest seemed to just make her feel humiliated, like she was doing this on purpose."

Taking your daughter’s nighttime wetting seriously before the generally accepted timeframe can save her from having bad feelings about wetting the bed. And, if your daughter is obviously distraught about her nighttime wetting, then she’s also highly motivated to stop.

Social Butterflies

One reason nighttime wetting can become a more urgent issue for girls is that girls tend to start having sleepovers at younger ages than boys, says Dr. Friman. This brings up the embarrassment or worry factor on the part of a young girl that she may have an accident.

Smith says that sleepovers were a big issue for her daughter. "She was so worried [about having an accident] that she didn’t want to go on play dates or sleepovers," Smith says. "When we had sleepovers here, she and I had this big thing we would do where I would distract her friends and she could sneak in and put GoodNites® Bedtime Pants on."

Dr. Friman acknowledges that navigating these social situations can be tricky for a girl who wets the bed, but he notes that the girl’s parents can get involved to communicate with the parents of the child holding the sleepover that there may be an accident. If this is done very discreetly, no one needs to be the wiser. However, he also points out that children often don’t wet the bed at all when they’re in a different house. The combination of excitement, the party atmosphere and, possibly, nerves keep them from the deep sleep that’s often connected with nighttime wetting.

One more point that Dr. Friman likes to make to parents is that it’s not their job to have a fear of sleepovers. "The avoidance of sleepovers because of a fear of bedwetting may not necessarily come from the child at first, but from the parent," says Dr. Friman. "A child might not know that it’s a big deal but the parents do. You have to be careful of how you pass that along to the child without making them feel that there’s something wrong with them."

Growing Up

Hope worried that her daughter would be affected from a very young age about her nighttime wetting. Now, she says, "The psychological effects of the bedwetting drama, thankfully, haven’t lasted. In fact, she’s 12 now and we were reminded of her bedwetting experience a few days ago. She said, ‘Oh, I almost forgot about that.’ That was a relief, because we were definitely concerned that it would stick with her."

Dr. Friman assures all parents that it won’t.

"These are kids," says Dr. Friman. "Accidents happen in class and at night and there’s no way to have that not happen, but if a kid is otherwise pretty well established and has love and stability at home, the repercussions won’t be long lasting. By the time she’s been dry a month, the child will be so absorbed by the day-to-day unfolding of her life that the bedwetting won’t mean a thing."

Nighttime Wetting Tips for Parents of Girls
  • Pay attention to your daughter’s feelings. If she’s distressed about bedwetting and your physician doesn’t take it seriously, consider consulting a psychologist or another physician who will.
  • Don’t disclose her nighttime wetting with her peers. Children can be mean, especially as they move toward adolescence. Nighttime wetting should be between you and your child.
  • Don’t keep your daughter from social situations. Rather, help her make a plan for sleepovers so she can discreetly change into GoodNites® Bedtime Pants or GoodNites* TRU-FIT* Underwear to manage her nighttime wetting while still enjoying the party. For younger children, it may be necessary to enlist the other child’s parent.
  • Be aware of your daughter’s urinary health. Talk to her about UTIs and the importance of letting you know if it hurts when she tries to urinate.
  • Do not allow siblings to tease one another about nighttime wetting.

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