Dear Barb – Bedwetting Concerns

Dear Barb:

I’ve been reading your column hoping someone would write in with my question, but no one has yet. My six-year-old daughter is still wetting her bed. She also has many accidents during the day, usually when laughing or playing. I am constantly reminding her to go, but she says she doesn’t have to, and then she has an accident. This behaviour is really affecting our family. When I go out with her, I am constantly watching for signs that she may have to go to the bathroom. When I see the signs, I have to force her to go to the bathroom. I’m wondering if this is common, as I don’t see a lot of my daughter’s friends having this problem. I would appreciate any advice you can provide to help me better cope with this.

June – Keswick

Hi June, your concern is understandable. “Nocturnal Enuresis” (the fancy name for bedwetting) becomes a problem if it occurs after the age of five. It is estimated that approximately 200,000 Canadian children over the age of five regularly wet their beds. Before this age, we kind of expect this is going to happen from time to time.

After some research, I discovered there are any number of reasons why children wet their bed. Genetics play a role, as most children who wet the bed have parents who also experienced this problem. However, the most common physiological reason may be a reduction of a natural chemical. The job of this chemical is to tell the kidneys to concentrate the urine so that the bladder doesn’t overfill.

I’m sure you and your daughter are aware of the unfortunate social consequences of this condition. For example, sleepovers your daughter will not want to participate in. Also accidents at school or on other outings will inevitably lead to teasing by peers. These are all behaviours that can seriously affect a child’s self-esteem. However, there are things you can do to help your child feel more comfortable and fit in with her peers. Wearing pull-ups when going on a sleepover will help your daughter overcome the embarrassment of an accident. Also advise her to limit drinking liquids after supper. This will prevent her bladder from over-filling through the night. When your daughter is at home perhaps bringing her to the bathroom before you go to bed may help ensure a dry night, which will do wonders for her self-esteem. Before you do any of these things you must have your daughter checked out by a physician to rule out any physical cause, like a bladder infection.

Remember your child will be just as distressed by this condition as you are. Therefore try to be positive and encouraging, reassure your daughter that she will eventually overcome this. I personally have a friend who has six-year-old twins and one wets the bed and the other doesn’t. This is very difficult for the child that wets the bed. She feels embarrassed and wonders why this is happening to her and not her sister.

This is a complex situation that, as you said, affects the entire family. Try to be patient and don’t blame your daughter for something she has no control over. Also when your daughter has a dry night or a dry day at school, reinforce this behaviour. I hope this information helps.

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