It’s 2:00 am and your child is crying. You go in to offer comfort and you realize the bed is soaking wet, again. Another scenario is waking up your child and noticing the heavy musky smell of dried urine on the sheets. Bed wetting happens to every parent and can be an emotionally draining. Questions arise within the parent, am I doing something wrong? What more can be done? Is therapy the answer?
There are numerous reasons for wetting the bed. One reason that is more common than people realize is a combination of deep sleep and the “need to go” signal having not been activated in the subconscious mind. Other reasons hypothesized are fear and anxieties at nighttime, drinking too much water, and simply thinking its okay to wet the bed. Either way, it is good to develop a healthy conversation around the subject of bed wetting and using the bathroom.
It is a delicate issue to discuss when the child is getting on in school-age years. When his or her peers have no issue with it at all, it may bring up feelings of shame, inadequacy, guilt, and overall low-self esteem. Bringing more attention to the problem is not the answer. Moving beyond the problem is the answer.
The next time your child wets the bed and you decide to talk, the best thing is to be supportive, loving, and empathetic. More specific tips are below so that you can have confidence in your conversations.
Support your child by creating a fresh vision each time. Your child’s identity may be starting to form around this topic and may be bringing unnecessary concerns or insecurities. To avoid creating a negative self-image while discussing the topic, create an entirely new self-image, one built in your values by asking a few great questions. Ask questions that illicit a vision and intrigue other interests in the child. When she responds, she will activate her imagination and therefore be creating a new image for herself in the “confident” role.
Let’s play with this a bit. Here is an example for building a new vision, how would it feel to wake up in the middle of the night, get mommy, go potty like a big girl, and then get a secret snack (or other surprise), then go back to bed? A “secret candy” or another reward is enough to stand out in the mind as an opportunity to capitalize on a behavior that is needed anyway. Questions that arouse curiosity and reward bent toward building a confident self-image is enough to start the conversation in the right direction. Direct the questions toward the success of actually feeling the need to go potty
Many parents get frustrated and will take out their frustration or disappointment on their child. Yelling or showing signs of irritation can be received and interpreted like the child is the problem for the parent, or they are not good enough. However, empathizing by feeling the same emotions or even hugging them “through the emotion” is an excellent way to deliver love and assurance to your child. Also, offering love in the form of empathy is a great way to assure your child that she will get through this minor flaw and it doesn’t come at a cost of losing your love in the process.
Recall that bed-wetting is primarily caused by the lack of the physiological trigger. You can cause your child to think about the specific physiological trigger by asking questions like, “How does it feel when you know you have to go?” “How do you know you have to go?” Also, keep in mind that for some kids the feeling of going to the bathroom is difficult to communicate. They may say, “It hurts.” because they don’t have the vocabulary to describe exactly what they are feeling. They may then mis-associate hurt with fear and therefore become afraid to go to the bathroom. In either case, when you are talking and exploring the subject of “feeling like you have to go” focus the conversation towards, “normal” “healthy,” and “I’m here with you.” Empathizing with your child that “the feeling does feel funny, tingly, or like a tummy ache.” Will go along way and the child will feel more comfortable.
All of these gentle ways of supporting loving and empathizing with your child around this sensitive topic is a way to loosen up the unconscious mind. When a child feels comfortable and supported, the seed of “time to go potty” can be firmly instilled deeply in the mind, take root, and grow until the habit is fully established. Their self-esteem grows as they will have conquered their first major life challenge, and you’ll have clean sheets to show for it.