bed-wettingIt seems whenever we’ve talking about anxiety in this blog, we always have to talk about some form of spiral of cause-and-effect – and it’s much the same with children wetting the bed.

But, first things first, it’s important to remember that bed-wetting in children is commonplace (around 20{7e66f01e68c52d858b59d425bd8f3886b02d30322136bee7d8e459b39be00af4} of all five-year-olds and 10{7e66f01e68c52d858b59d425bd8f3886b02d30322136bee7d8e459b39be00af4} of seven-year-olds) and is usually due to quite simple, physical causes such as:

  • The bladder growing more slowly than usual and holding less urine than is normal;
  • The child is genetically predisposed to bed-wetting;
  • Constipation;
  • Low levels of the hormone vasopressin, which reduces urine production.

There are rarely emotional or medical problems behind early bed-wetting, but issues such as diabetes, urinary tract infection, pin worms, kidney failure, seizures and sleep apnea can all have symptoms including bed-wetting.

What’s important is that the child isn’t blamed for wetting the bed by parents or teased by siblings because this can lead to anxiety, which, although it’s not the primary cause of the bed-wetting, can make it worse.

This is mainly because the children exhibit certain behaviours linked to their stress and anxiety which make bed-wetting more likely. Behaviours such as:

  • Eating salty, processed food and drinking fluids right up until bedtime;
  • Forgetting to empty the bladder before sleep;
  • Having a disrupted sleep pattern.

In any of these cases, the child is likely to get into a cycle of anxiety and bed-wetting because they might perceive they’re missing out on sleepovers and other activities, or they may be getting teased about it among their peers – all of which is going to lead to low self-esteem.

The practical steps you can take to combat bed-wetting isn’t just around waiting for the body to catch up (although this does work most of the time), there are methods such as alarms, behavioural changes and rewarding the child for following a treatment plan which can help.

And it’s also important to be supportive and not to punish a child for wetting the bed, but to include them in the process of cleaning up so they feel a shared responsibility for the treatment.

In cases of bed-wetting which progress beyond the age of seven or in which bed-wetting reoccurs after a break of more than six months, it may be useful to seek the help of a qualified child or family therapist who can help the child deal with any underlying causes of anxiety as well as getting them to open up about any embarrassment they feel about bed-wetting.

Shame is one of the strongest emotions anyone can feel – let along a child – and it makes it tough to talk through emotions. Play therapy, which is effective for children as young as two, has enjoyed good results in getting children to work through their emotions when dealing with family turmoil, anxiety, phobias, grief and trauma and can reap rewards both in treating underlying anxieties connected with bed-wetting and the stresses involved in experiencing bed-wetting.

  • For more information on Robert Street Clinic’s range of childand family services, and a full list of our fully trained specialists contact us on 09 973 5950 or via email.