Lots of children and young people wet the bed (known in the medical world as Nocturnal Enuresis). It isn’t their fault – it just seems to be one of those developmental stages that happens at different times for different people.
But it can be quite distressing for the people involved (kids and parents!).
It’s not a problem that is talked about much, so many young people imagine that they’re the only one. In fact, there are around 98,000 young people in the UK (age 10-15yrs) who wet the bed. That means that for every 100, there will be roughly 2 to 3 who are struggling with this issue.
This is something that is close to my heart as I struggled with wetting the bed until I was 14 years old. I remember very vividly the shame and embarrassment that came with it. But it doesn’t need to be like this.
So I want to share some tips for any parents out there who are supporting a child or young person with this condition.
It is okay to wet the bed
It is okay to wet the bed. I cannot stress this point enough!
Wetting the bed does not make you a bad person. Wetting the bed does not make you stupid or babyish. Wetting the bed is not laziness or incompetence.
It is okay to wet the bed.
Waterproof sheets, nappies, and washing machines mean that night time accidents do not need to be a big deal. You can quickly and easily resolve the situation. I know it can be frustrating when there are bed sheets to wash every day as well as all the usual family laundry but, at the end of the day, there is no permanent harm done.
In fact, the less of a deal we can make about this, the less worried our kids will be about it. They look to our reaction for guidance on how to react, so one of the best gifts we can give them is the gift of peace.
By the time our kids have reached this age, they know that they need to go to the toilet. They have the head knowledge. It is just that their bodies are not yet capable of processing this information at night. They certainly don’t need us to mutter and chunter about it – that will just reinforce a feeling of shame and inadequacy. When actually, there is no need to feel like this.
We wouldn’t expect someone to feel inadequate because they use glasses – we accept that their glasses help them to see properly. In the same way, a young person who wets the bed uses a nappy or waterproof sheet to help them stay dry at night. The idea of blame or shame just doesn’t come into the equation.
So let’s try to get away from this idea that it is “wrong” to wet the bed at night. It might be inconvenient, it might be unwished-for, but it is never bad.
Practical suggestions for bed wetters
The good thing about bed-wetting is that it happens at night (obviously!) so most of the time, it can be a private issue. As children get older, they can even be taught how to put their own bed sheets in the washing machine so they’re cleaned and ready to dry by the time morning rolls around.
Here are a few other practical suggestions that can help your child to deal with this condition:
- Wash – teach them how to wash themselves with a sponge and soap to take the smell away
- Perfume – buy them some perfume / aftershave to use through the day for the smell again
- Toilet when awake – encourage them to go to the toilet if they happen to wake in the night
- Toilet before bed – make a toilet trip the last task before settling down to sleep
And if there’s a sleepover or overnight stay coming up, here are a few extra tips:
- Hide aids in bed – stash nappies / waterproof sheets in bottom of their sleeping bag so they can subtly put them on and off once the lights go out and everyone is in bed
- Confide in someone – it can help knowing that a friend or trusted adult is aware of the situation
As parents, it’s our job to support our kids who wet the bed.
It seems obvious to us that we love them despite this problem, but constantly bringing it up or complaining about it can translate to our kids that they aren’t good enough for us. Instead, we need to deal with it all as patiently and kindly as we can.
As they get older, they may feel increasingly embarrassed about it but helping them to maintain as much independence as possible can be a great confident boost – they feel like they are in control of the situation, and that they are managing and coping.
We may want to “protect” them from teasing and influence their decision about sleepovers. But if our kids wants to go, we just need to equip them as best we can.
Maybe suggest hosting the sleepover at your house so they have support if they do wet the bed, or at least as a practise run before staying over somewhere else. (Although it’s worth pointing out that I rarely wet the bed when I was with friends – probably because my brain subconsciously knew it was important to only have a light sleep).
And at the end of the day, we need to be there to listen when they need us. They come to us for reassurance and support, so that we can help them to achieve their dreams, not hold them back. Be the safe space – the place where they can go for comfort, consolation and encouragement.
Does your child / teenager wet the bed? What do they find the most challenging part of the situation? What are your top tips for supporting and helping them? Help me out by leaving a comment below.
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