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Bed Wetting in Older Children

Updated on January 1, 2014

When older children wet the bed:

After your child has been fully potty trained and you notice they have started wetting the bed it is important to take a step back and evaluate the situation. There are many causes and reasons why children past the potty training age wet the bed. This doesn't make it anybody's "fault".

As upsetting as it may feel to you, frustrating, angry, or disappointed; I promise you that your child is feeling ten times worse about it themselves. The best thing you can do is to reassure your child that they didn't do anything "wrong", accidents happen, and you still love them.

Comfort your child if he/she is upset over the issue. Take care of the soiled bedding and clothes in a discrete manner to not bring any more shame to the already devastated child.

Depending upon the maturity level of the child, you may even reassure him/her by letting them know that you will help find a solution to this situation. Avoid calling it a "problem". If you use the word "problem" the child is likely to feel that there is something wrong with him/herself, which will only cause the bed wetting to occur more frequently along with other possible, negative self image and behaviors presenting themselves.

Possible Causes:

  • Boys have a smaller bladder than girls naturally. In some cases a boy's bladder takes longer to grow and develop. Your son could just have a smaller bladder.
  • UTI (urinary track infection) ~ If your child is going to the bathroom while awake more than usual you may want to set up a doctor's visit to rule this out. Not all children (or adults) feel the pain and discomfort associated with a UTI. Just because it doesn't hurt to go, doesn't mean they don't have one.
  • Emotional Disturbance ~ Not knowing or not having the skills to get through emotional, physical, or other types of trauma may present its self by way of bed wetting. It is important to find out if your child is upset by something in their life. Is your child being bullied at school? Are you and your spouse fighting more than usual? Is there anything that could be causing your child to feel emotionally unstable or insecure?
  • Attention Seeking ~ Some children will wet the bed in order to get a parent's attention. They may do this consciously or unconsciously. Ask yourself if your child has any reason to feel that they need to "fight" for your attention and approval or that of the other parent.
  • Developmental Delay ~ Children with developmental delays such as Mental retardation, FAS, Down's Syndrome, or any of the other hundreds of conditions may have a period in their development when they are growing so much in one area that they regress in another. Know that this will pass and your child needs your love, acceptance, understanding, and encouragement.

Ways to Prevent it:

Once you've gotten a better understanding of what is causing the bed wetting to occur, you can more forward to preventing as many of these accidents as possible.

  • Avoid all beverages at least 2 hours before bedtime
  • Take a potty break right before getting into bed
  • Keep the room at a warm temperature without a breeze. (sometimes the feeling of a cool breeze caused by an open window or even a fan will trigger a release by the bladder in a state of sleep)
  • Avoid taking any sleep aides which may hinder your child's ability to wake up by the sensation of needing to use the bathroom
  • Set an alarm to wake your child up 30 minutes before they usually do, or for no more than 8 hours of sleep (if you don't have a set routine).

For Severe Cases

If your child has accidents frequently, here are some other helpful tips which may ease your families suffering and stress:

  • Purchase "Goodnites" or other similar product that your child can wear discretely
  • Purchase a plastic cover for the bed which fits under the sheet to prevent the mattress from getting soiled
  • Consider setting a midnight alarm for your child to wake up to for a potty break and another for morning wake up time

Emotional Support

Giving your child emotional support during this difficult time is perhaps the most important and valuable thing you can do for him/her.

If your child is excited or proud of themselves when they stay dry through the night, be excited with him/her. Tell them you are proud, give hugs, high-fives, or whatever feels right and natural by way of positive encouragement. If your child does not want this type of attention, refrain from using it. Only use this technique if the child comes to you about feeling good about themselves for their accomplishment.

Find other areas in their life and in their day that you can praise and encourage. Your child is dealing with self esteem issues over this issue. It is important that he/she knows that no matter what; you love them, they are a good person, and they are valued.

The more love and support you can offer your child throughout the day, over any accomplishment they achieve, will help them gain the confidence they need to overcome this issue in their life. It will help them have a "can do" attitude. When your child knows, sees, and feels that they have your support and understanding, rather than your criticism, he/she will not only have the strength to overcome bed wetting; they will have the strength to excel in all areas of their development and being.


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