I recently had dinner with a college friend who I had not seen for many years. When the topic of bedwetting came up in the dinner conversation (which it often does), she mentioned that her friend’s 8 year daughter was struggling with persistent wet nights. She described her friend’s feelings of frustration, concern that her daughter was lazy or didn’t care and feeling that she and her husband must be doing something “wrong”.
The way in which parents approach the child with enuresis can be a source of conflict between parents — especially since there is no one cause and treatment. A parent who was enuretic themselves may share some experiences but may choose not to relive the humiliation they felt. Often this wasn’t previously discussed with their spouse. The extra workload of changing bedding and getting the child up during the night may cause even the best parents to become frustrated with their child.
The good news is that ineffective parenting most often is not to blame for the bedwetting. Bedwetting is inherited and often has to do with a combination of factors, such as small bladder capacity, sound sleep and a delay in the development of that brain-bladder connection. We know that most of these kids are great students, athletes, musicians etc. without an underlying psychological component. It’s no one’s “fault” and the good news is that effective treatments do exist.
Some parental guidelines:
Seek Treatment. Physicians and parents should not “ignore” children with nocturnal enuresis after they have reached 6 or 7 years of age. Do not accept “He’ll grow out of it” as an acceptable solution. Effective use of bedwetting alarms is a treatment solution that can eliminate years of wetting for the majority of children with nocturnal enuresis.
Do Not Punish Your Child. Unfortunately, findings suggest that 20-36% of parents have punished their children for bedwetting. Punishment can take the form of withdrawal of privileges, increased expectation of household chores (cleaning and laundry) and can even escalate to verbal and physical abuse. Since these children have no control over their wetting, punishment is inappropriate.
Children with Enuresis May Have Lower Self-esteem and a Less Positive Self-concept. Children with enuresis often go to great lengths to hide their wetting from other family members and their friends. Parents report finding wet sheets and clothing while their child denies that they wet. Avoiding sleepovers or making excuses to be picked up early are common. As the child reaches middle and high school, overnight school trips and camps are avoided. Since developing independence is a normal developmental task at this age, enuresis can impact this. Shame, inferiority, and feelings of isolation are common. Often the child feels they are the only one with this problem.
Treatment is Beneficial. Research does indicate that these feelings dissipate once the enuresis in cured. Children who have received treatment for nocturnal enuresis and achieved dryness have improved scores in social behavior and self-concept.