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Understanding Bedwetting

Talking About Bedwetting with Children

Each night, millions of kids wet the bed. Each morning, many of them wake up feeling alone and embarrassed. The rest roll up their sheets, toss them in the laundry and get on with their days.

How can you help your child become someone who accepts the problem, handles it and moves on? The best way is through open, honest communication.

The first step toward open communication is understanding and acknowledging that bedwetting, also called nighttime wetting or enuresis, is not a willful behavior on the child's part. Renee Mercer, MSN, certified pediatric nurse practitioner at Enuresis Associates in Maryland, stresses that wetting is not something a child can control. If she could, she would. "No child would rather wake up wet than dry," she says.

The Initial Conversation

When you first discuss the condition with your child, be sure to remain calm and upbeat. Explain that some people have a hard time learning to ride a bike, some have trouble swimming and others have difficulty staying dry at night. Emphasize that it doesn't mean there's something wrong with him; it's just a fact of life.

Also share with your child that he is not alone.

Even closer-to-home heroes have experienced the condition. Recent statistics demonstrate that about 85% of children with enuresis have a relative who had it. About half of them have a parent or sibling with the condition. Arrange a time when your child can talk to an adult who has lived through the problem. If you don't know anyone, ask your doctor or call an enuresis clinic to find someone in your area.

"Realizing that I was not alone made all the difference to me," explains Rich, who wet the bed as a child. "My mother told me that two of my uncles and my grandmother used to wet. She said they outgrew it, and so would I." This information helped him accept the condition and wait it out.

In addition to explaining the situation, you should work with your child to develop a plan of action. According to Dr. Sandra Hassink, a Delaware pediatrician, teamwork is key. "If there is to be success, family support and positive reinforcement are vital." A sample plan might have the child responsible for removing the soiled sheets and remaking the bed, while the parent is in charge of doing the wash. "This is not a punishment!" Hassink points out. "Rather, children will often feel better by helping with the clean-up process."

Finally, let your child know that you are there for him if he wants or needs to talk. Enuresis can be a very embarrassing condition. Having a loving and supportive ear can make a big difference in how your child reacts to the problem. "The more open you can be about it, the less apt you are to find smelly clothes tucked into the corner of the closet," Mercer says.

If you choose to enlist the aid of helpful nighttime wetting products such as disposable absorbent underpants, it is best to not draw a lot of attention to them. For example, GoodNites® Bedtime Pants — white, discreet, disposable undergarments — are made to look like regular, age-appropriate underwear and should be treated as such. By placing them in a child's underwear drawer and noting that they are the underpants to be worn at night, this can help the child's self-esteem — especially when he wakes up dry.

The Family Conversation

Depending on your family dynamics, you may want to discuss the situation with your other children. "Often, siblings do get an inclination that maybe one of the children is wetting, even if you don't discuss it with them," explains Mercer.

A family conversation will help your other children understand that nighttime wetting is a medical condition, and not the fault of the wetting child. Getting it out in the open can help remove the stigma and shame the affected child might feel if she were to keep it a secret.

After the discussion, it is important to stress that the information shared must stay in the family. It should never be brought up to the child's friends. Parents should also enforce a "no teasing" policy about the child's enuresis — even in the midst of heated arguments between siblings.

Day-to-Day Interactions

After the initial and family conversations, other enuresis discussions should be initiated by your child. "Be open to listen whenever your child wants to talk," says Mercer. Don't single her out or treat her differently than the other children in your house. For example, don't greet her in the morning with "Were you wet last night?" Instead, ask her what she wants for breakfast. By not focusing on the problem, you will help your child realize that she is much more than a bedwetter.

Talk with your child about her enuresis and, more importantly, listen to her. By doing so, you will give her the opportunity to acknowledge and accept her condition. Then she can get on with her life.

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