Why is my school-aged child still wetting his bed?

It’s natural to feel worried, confused and a little frustrated when your child is past the preschool years and they are still wetting the bed.  You’re likely wondering how to support each other during this challenging time.

When our family was going through it, we spent some time refreshing our knowledge on toilet learning and checked out products to help minimize laundry.  We talked to health care professionals and family to ensure our youngest son was feeling supported and to rule out any medical concerns.

The medical term for bed wetting is enuresis (en-you-ree-sis). The National Kidney Foundation helps children understand it in this way:

  • The kidney makes urine and it goes down tubes into the bladder.
  • The bladder is like a balloon and it has a muscle that acts like a gate to keep the urine in.
  • When full, the bladder sends a message to the brain to tell the gate to open.
  • To stay dry, all the parts must be working together.
  • The brain must either tell the gate to stay closed until morning, or tell you to wake up so you can go to the bathroom.

Some things to keep in mind…

1.  Children are all individuals!  

  • Some children are very sound sleepers and don’t wake up to their brain’s message.
  • A child’s kidneys may be making more pee than other kids their age.
  • Bed wetting affects twice as many boys as girls.
  • Bed wetting can run in families, increasing your child’s odds by 25 or 65%.

2.  When are most children staying dry at night?                      

According to the Canadian Pediatric Society:

  • At 5 years of age: 85%
  • By 8 years of age: 92-94%
  • By 9 years of age: 95-97 %
  • By 12 years: 97-98% of all children are staying dry at night.

3.  It’s not your child’s fault:

  • Talking together protects and nurtures your child’s self–esteem.
  • Deal with accidents discreetly and calmly.
  • Remind siblings to be supportive and not tease.
  • Planning with your child, his friend’s parents, and any camp director can ensure  sleepovers can be a part of every child’s positive memories.

If your child stopped wetting the bed for at least 6 months and then started again, talk with your doctor.

Some tips for dry nights:                 

  • Monitor your child’s drinking after supper time.
  • Avoid caffeine (some cola drinks).
  • Wake your child up for a trip to the bathroom when you go to bed.
  • It may be necessary to do this again in the middle of the night. This won’t cure the problem (remember they pee because their brain is not getting the message to wake up) but it may keep them and the bed dry.
  • Consider using special underwear to help your child feel confident they will wake to dry pajamas and bedding, especially for special occasions.  

In our family, we’ve come to look at bed wetting as just another developmental stage to learn about and move through. We let our son know he is healthy, that his mom outgrew it and that bed wetting is something we can plan for and experience success with both at home and on sleepovers.

Share your experience:

For more tips and hints about bed wetting, or to share your experience, there are many ways you can talk to one of us directly:

  • Leave us a comment below – we’d love your feedback
  • Talk to us on Twitter: @haltonparents
  • Email us at haltonparents@halton.ca
  • Call the HaltonParents line for parenting information or to speak directly to a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) Simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.

About this guest blogger:

Janice Clark is a Developmental Consultant with Halton Region’s Infant & Child Developmental Services for the past 21 years. She provides in-home support and guidance to Halton families with children who are at risk for, or who have an established developmental delay.  She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Sciences and is a Registered Early Childhood Educator with a specialization for program planning for children with special needs. She is a mother of two fabulous boys who love sleepovers and camping trips where a little planning can mean a good nights sleep and dry sleeping bags.

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