Mother reading to three boys
Understanding Bedwetting

Kids' Top Five Questions About Bedwetting

The five most frequently asked questions — in no particular order and courtesy of Dr. Charles Sophy, medical director for the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services — are:

Why am I wetting the bed?

The National Kidney Foundation (NKF) professes kids who wet the bed don't do it on purpose. It happens because kids don't wake up when they need to use the bathroom. It may also be happening because the kidneys make too much urine during sleep, the bladder is unable to hold urine or there's a hereditary link (i.e., nighttime wetting runs in the family). "Depending on the child's age and medical status, there may be different reasons for bedwetting," says Dr. Sophy. A trip to the doctor's office will help rule out any underlying medical causes.

When asked this question by a patient, Dr. Michael Wasserman, a pediatrician with the Ochsner Clinic Foundation in New Orleans, LA, says he tells them that the bladder, which stores the urine they make, has a control system that does not always work well, but will do so as the child matures.

How can I stop nighttime wetting?

You and your child can work together to find the nighttime wetting management technique that works best for you and your family. Seek assistance from a doctor, suggests Dr. Sophy. The NKF suggests some management techniques for the child to discuss with a parent and doctor:

  • Don't drink a lot before bedtime, but if your child is thirsty, do not shy away from giving them water.
  • Avoid drinks with caffeine.
  • Ask the doctor about treatments that might help.
  • Wear disposable underpants for relief and to prevent wet sheets.

Fifteen percent of kids who wet the bed stop each year after age 6. "So time is on the child's side, meaning that this usually goes away." says Dr. Wasserman.

Do any of my friends wet the bed at night?

Nighttime wetting is more common than people may think! Tell your child that more than 5 million children in the U.S. continue to wet the bed past the age of 6, according to the NKF, and most of them outgrow it. So it is likely that your child knows someone who wets the bed.

Is nighttime wetting normal?

In general, the vast majority of children who bedwet are medically normal, says Dr. Wasserman. In fact, many children who wet the bed have parents who themselves were nighttime wetters. In some cases, nighttime wetting may be an expected manifestation of a medical or psychological problem, says Dr. Sophy. An evaluation by a physician should be done to rule out any underlying medical conditions.

Am I broken?

According to Dr. Wasserman, another variation of this question is, "Am I different?" Or even, "Am I defective?" This question — along with the others — is usually asked because the child feels different, in a negative way. "Their self-esteem is diminished and this is, by far, the most important aspect of this problem to which their parents should pay attention," says Dr. Wasserman. "Parents need to not make the bedwetting a negative experience but need to focus on the positive accomplishments of the child."

It's often because of fear, embarrassment and confusion that children ask these particular questions. But sometimes they'll be too caught up in those emotions to ask at all. Dr. Wasserman has found that boys tend to be more uncomfortable than girls to discuss "body function" issues. Interestingly, it's not the kids who usually ask him about nighttime wetting, but the parents.

"[The kids] do not usually articulate their anxieties in a direct fashion, even upon questioning from me," says Dr. Wasserman.

All the more reason, then, for parents to be prepared. Parents are best taking their child's lead, says Dr. Sophy. "The older the child, the more the tendency for embarrassment and issues of self-esteem," he says. "In smaller children, confusion and anger [about] the uncontrollable are in the forefront and open. Honest discussion is always best."

Let your child draw out how he feels and write accompanying text, and have him end the book the way he likes. Bind the book either by stapling it together or using a three-hole punch and tying the book together with ribbon.

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