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Bed Wetting Woes


Dear Life Coach,

My 5-year-old son is still wetting his bed. He is supposed to be starting primary school in September and I am so concerned for him. He is a very shy and reserved child and I know that children will tease him if they find out. My son stopped wetting his bed for a whole year and to my surprise he started again.{{more}} I can’t think back to anything that might be causing this behaviour and as far as I know he is otherwise a healthy child. He is with me 90% of the time. On a few occasions, I left him with a family friend to go down town on very important business. I trust my friend however, so I don’t think that that would be the problem. I am not sure what is happening or what to do.

Bed-wetter’s Mom (BM)

Dear BM,

Thanks for your email. Bed-wetting is both embarrassing and inconvenient. I hope your son will be back on track in time for the start of the school year.

Your Situation:

Several factors are at work here: enuresis, physical problems, psychological concerns, low self-esteem, and family support among others. I will address these briefly.


Enuresis is the discharging of urine involuntarily, during sleep (or during the day), at least twice per month for children between 5 and 6 years of age, which is not due to other illnesses.

Physical Problems

Enuresis may result from the following: inadequate, delayed or inconsistent toilet training; delay in the development of the bladder muscles; or problems with the bladder sensing when it is full.

Psychological Problems

Enuresis may also be the result of psychological stressors (e.g. birth of a sibling, sickness or death in the family, marital problems, divorce, death or loss of a pet, and the start of school).

Low Self-Esteem

Children with enuresis are likely to suffer from poor self-esteem, due to ostracism by peers, anger at themselves, punishment and rejection by parents, and general unkind remarks from others.

Family Support

Enuresis often causes shame, humiliation, embarrassment, and social isolation for children, as well as frustration and concern for parents and families. Families should understand that children who suffer from enuresis do not wet their beds deliberately, and that the condition is emotionally painful for them and is considered to be a disorder like other illnesses.

What to Do

Positive Outlook

Know that the majority of children who are incontinent during middle childhood outgrow this problem by adolescence. So, let your child know that his condition is likely to get better as he gets older. This will be a source of encouragement to him.

Physical Examination

It is important to have your child checked by the doctor in order to rule out any physical problems. Although your child maintained bladder control for a while, it is possible that a physical problem could have developed, resulting in enuresis.

Bell and Pad

The Bell and Pad is an apparatus that is based on behavioral techniques and is known to be very effective in treating enuresis. This device is not necessarily prescribed and may be available in some pharmacies/stores, local or overseas. With this device, when the child begins to urinate during sleep a buzzer alarms, waking the child from sleep, so he/she can go to the bathroom and continue to empty his/her bladder. With this device the child eventually learns to awaken before urination starts, so he/she can go to the bathroom.

Boost Morale

Find ways to boost your child’s morale by focusing on his strengths and placing less emphasis on his incontinence.

Family Support

Since your son is very sensitive, it is very important for you to enlist your family’s support in encouraging your son. Family members should avoid blaming, teasing, labeling or making comments that will cause embarrassment for your son. Demonstrate patience and understanding to your child who may be blaming himself. Keeping this concern within the family is also of utmost importance, since the community may be less sympathetic about this issue, and he is likely to become the laughing stock among his peers, as well as older children.

Avoid Sleepovers

Since bed wetting is a source of embarrassment, it is important to avoid overnight visits/sleepovers, camps and other such activities until this problem is resolved.

Address Psychological Issues

Since your child was not always incontinent, there is a good chance that there is some psychological element to his incontinent behaviour. Think back over the past year to determine any changes in your family or in your child’s life that may have caused your child to be sad or truamatized (e.g. moving to a new house, an addition or loss to the family, illness, separation from parent(s) or family member, loss of a pet etc.). Talk to your child also about what may be bothering him or any other concerns he may have. Also, ensure that your child is not being abused by family, friend, relative, or paid helper who may be providing childcare in your absence. Also, look into the possibility of his being bullied by neighbourhood children.

Maintain Hygiene

It is important to maintain hygiene in the home and for the child; wrap mattresses in plastic, and remove and wash soiled clothing and bed linen on a daily basis.

BM, continue to hang in there; this condition is generally temporary, although it may last for a few years.

Life Coach


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