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Advice for Parents

Simple Strategies to Ease Bedwetting Frustrations

Dr. Jennifer Trachtenberg

Bedtime can be particularly frustrating for both parents and children.

For parents, there's the prospect of finally getting important tasks done after your child is in bed, so you want it to be an easy and reasonably brief process. For your child, bedtime is not an opportunity, it's an ending to whatever fun activities were in progress or might even continue if he could just stay up a little bit longer.

For all of us, bedtime can present a difficult change of course in the middle of other nightly activities. Interruption and exhaustion are ingredients for frustration. The way around this is to provide something at bedtime that's more than just an end to a fun evening of playtime.

Every bedtime routine should have quiet time. For a younger child, that’s time spent with Mommy or Daddy, reading a book, helping with a bath or maybe singing a song. For the school-aged child, it means putting aside active play, videos and schoolwork. This is a transition period between being awake and going to sleep and an important part of good sleep habits. And it's not the book that puts them to sleep. For young children, it's the sound of your voice and the fact that you're there with them and that you're willing to go that long without answering the phone. For older children, it’s the voice of the story, allowing them to focus on the adventures to come.

Defuse some of the frustration with many reminders about the upcoming change of pace and transition to bedtime, reminding your child of the nightly routines that signal “time for bed.” Don’t surprise her with an announcement that bedtime has arrived. Give gentle reminders at 30, 15, 5 and 2 minutes. Older children need more warning, so you should let them know an hour before.

But the crucial part is the fact that it's a routine, done the same way every night, including weekends and vacations. When parts are changed or missing, the rhythm of gradual relaxation is interrupted, and the child might appear in half an hour asking for a drink of water.

Keep your expectations simple and the routine simple so it's easy to repeat. Simple and unchanging tasks reduce frustration and help parents and children deal with nighttime issues, like nighttime wetting, with perspective. You might not notice minor changes, but your child will. Make bedtime the best time of the day and he will look forward to it.

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