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Traveling & Sleepovers

Helping Grandparents Understand Bedwetting

"To Grandmother's house we go" has a whole different meaning when a grandchild wets the bed, especially on extended visits during the holidays. And no one knows this more than Debbie and her 5-year-old son, Cole.

"I started by buying the GoodNites® [NightTime Underwear], which I have to say are about the best thing, and I wish they had these when I was younger," says Debbie, who, along with her husband, also wet the bed as a child. "This was OK, but if Cole stayed with the grandparents and we forgot them, he would have an accident."

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, approximately 15% of children wet the bed after age 3, and bedwetting (also known as nighttime wetting) typically stops by puberty. Although nighttime wetting is so common among children, the situation is sometimes one that grandparents find difficult to understand. They may believe nighttime wetting is a serious medical problem or that the parents should be doing something more to stop it. But with a little communication, a child's grandparents can lend their help and, most important, support.

"Communication between the parents and grandparents is very important," says Amy Goyer, coordinator of the AARP's Grandparent Information Center. "It can help to show the grandparents information or printed material about bedwetting to help them understand. This can be very effective because grandparents tend to respect information from experts."

Goyer says parents of nighttime wetters often confuse their own parents' sincerity with interference, which can cause unnecessary friction between the two groups. She stresses open conversation and education as avenues to avoid conflict.

"Don't just assume that the grandparents don't understand," she says. "Most likely they are showing so much concern because they love their grandchild. They usually just don't meddle to meddle. Parents [of nighttime wetters] should take a patient approach to discussing the topic with their parents and exchange information that they all may have learned about bedwetting."

Grandparents often have more free time to research the topic on the Internet or at the library, Goyer notes. She suggests using their willingness to help instead of feeling as if they are trying to take over the situation. "Grandparents can be very helpful," she says. "However, they should know to pass on the information they have found and let go. Allow the parents to take control and handle things."

Home for the Holidays

Debbie takes special precautions for overnights at Cole's grandparents' house. "When Cole is staying with my parents, I just make sure to have my mom lightly cut back on liquids and make sure he goes to the bathroom before bed," she says.

Success stories like Debbie's can be difficult to achieve during seasonal travel. To make the situation less stressful for all involved, Goyer suggests pre-visit consultations with grandparents or family to make arrangements.

"First of all, preparation ahead of time is important," she says. "Don't wait until you show up on the grandparents' doorstep to talk about it. Send them some information about bedwetting if they aren't already familiar, and show them that this is the way you are handling it. If you don't talk about it first, then Grandma will be changing the child's bed sheets in the morning and she will most likely become concerned. Always communicate ahead of time and discuss the bedwetting at length before the stay."

Good advice before heading "over the river and through the woods."

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