Questions & Answers

Are there some practical things a parent can do to help a child who is struggling with bedwetting?

Reassure the child that he or she is not at fault. Limit the child's last substantial drink to two hours before bedtime. During the day, encourage the child to hold urine for long periods to increase the size and capability of the bladder. Before bedtime, make sure the child urinates so he starts the night with an empty bladder. Children with small bladders will probably have to learn to get up once or twice a night in order to stay dry. Some parents wake their child for trips to the bathroom. Setting up a sticker chart with rewards for dry nights is often helpful. Remember, toilet training takes a lot of patience, time and understanding.

Should a child, even an older one, wear diapers to bed?

For some children, it is helpful to wear thick underwear under the pajamas. Older children, however, may find this embarrassing. Diapers can also decrease the chance of the child feeling wet and interfere with training. Protect the bed. A washable mattress pad and a plastic sheet under the top sheet can help keep the bed dry. Reward the child for dry nights, but do not punish him for wet ones.

How should parents show their disapproval and frustration when a child seems to wet the bed deliberately?

Enuresis is not voluntary. Children do not wet their beds on purpose. Punishment, teasing and criticism will not help the problem, and can prolong it, causing an emotional problem. Support, sympathy, and encouragement are important. Take positive steps to show the child you want to help him solve the problem. It is also advisable to limit the attention given to the problem. Have the child be responsible for self-care. Teach him to get up and change his pajamas when he wets the bed. Keep a stack of extra pajamas, and teach the child to place a towel over the wet spot and get back into bed.

Do not permit siblings or other family members to tease the child. If a parent had enuresis at a young age, telling the child will relieve some of his anxiety.

What about the future for a child who bedwets. Should we just let a child outgrow it?

The problem may go away by itself. Some sources put the rate of symptom disappearance at 15 percent, lower with boys than with girls. However, the longer the child has enuresis the more likely he is to experience negative social consequences, including family dissension. If a child is 5 years old and enuresis persists for three months or more, most experts feel that intervention is warranted, and the possibility of a consultation with a mental health professional should be considered.