Wetting the bed can seem like a nightmare, whether it’s the child going through it or the parent dealing with it. It’s an issue largely un-talked about in our society, which can leave family’s feeling alone with their struggles. However, nighttime wetting is much more common than many believe. Research is now showing that there’s an 80% chance that kids will wet the bed if both of their parents experienced nighttime wetting and a 47% chance if one of their parents did. Genetics plays a huge part in nighttime wetting and Michele Kambolis, a clinical counsellor with over two decades of work in the field, shares her knowledge on what to do as a parent, why the nighttime wetting is happening, and how to move forward.
Michele has spent over 45,000 hours working with families going through emotionally difficult times and dealing with nighttime wetting, which is why she’s involved with helping kids and parents work through it. She’s also teamed up with Goodnites, who’ve created the Goodnites® TRU-FIT* Underwear for boys and girls. It looks exactly like regular underwear so that kids can feel comfortable heading off to sleepovers or overnight camp without the worry or embarrassment of having to wear pull-ups.
The topic of bedwetting hits close to home for Michele. As a child, she herself was a nighttime wetter and remembers how difficult it was since it wasn’t something that was discussed openly in families. Her own boys were both nighttime wetters as well, so her personal experience with it has really pushed her to help other families in similar situations.
The reasons behind bedwetting (besides genetics, which is one of the biggest contributors) boils down to a combination of three things: a child is sleeping very deeply and communication between the bladder and brain isn’t registering and they’re not waking up, the bladder can’t hold the urine all through the night, or some children produce more urine at night. Nighttime wetting can be one of these things or a combination of any of the three.
For children with a genetic predisposition to nighttime wetting, emotional stressors can also be a trigger for them. These emotional stressors can be anything from starting at a new school to the arrival of a new sibling. Usually, with nighttime wetting triggered by an emotional stressor will resolve within a few months.
Whether a child is genetically predisposed to nighttime wetting or whether it’s happening due to one of the three reasons listed above, it is not something within their control. Neither the child or the parents need to be blamed for it. You’re not doing anything wrong if your child wets the bed. One of the most harmful myths with bedwetting is that it’s caused by poor parenting or that a child isn’t trying hard enough. Both of these myths place blame; either on the parent or the child. However, bedwetting is not the result of a parenting style, nor is it within the control of the child. If we change the way we perceive it, recognizing that it’s no one’s fault, it doesn’t have to be something that emotionally weighs down a family.
If you have a child who wets the bed, one thing you can do is discuss the issue openly with your kid, explaining what’s happening to their bodies. You can help them understand that it’s not their fault, that their body will develop out of it, and that all bodies develop at different times. Make sure to be open and reassuring with your child—validate what they’re feeling, letting them know that you understand why they’re feeling the way that they are. It’s also important to empower them with a plan (i.e. Helping them decide what type of bedtime pants they want to wear at night or helping them to decide when they want to put the bed mat on). This allows them to be autonomous in some capacity, “that there is something in their control and hat they’re a part of the solution.”
“Kids are growing up in a culture of stress, where they’re more worried and hurried than ever before. This means that it’s vital to arm them with tools for resilience and coping,” says Michele. Practicing mindfulness exercises with children teaches them “that when they change their thoughts and they change their actions or behaviours, they can change their emotional reality.” Having this kind of personal control this is an incredibly powerful tool because it allows children to observe their thoughts and feelings and let them pass through. “It gives them a way to quiet their busy minds and become attuned with their internal reality.”
Mindfulness exercises to help your child:
* Balloon Buster: All you’ll need is a balloon and a pen. “Imagine a belief about yourself that is negative and counterproductive, something you’re ready to let go of” (i.e. For nighttime wetters it might be something like, ‘I’m not good enough’ or ‘I have to be perfect’ or ‘There’s something wrong with me’). Whatever that negative idea about yourself is, blow it into the balloon. As you blow it into the balloon imagine the idea leaving your mind—breathe it out. When the balloon is full and the thought is in the balloon, let the balloon go; it will fly off and empty out. Then grab a pen and write/draw the opposite thought on your hand. So, “if the child is thinking ‘I’m not good enough’ it becomes ‘I’m good enough just the way I am.’” Breathe in the new, more supportive thoughts.
* Worry Wall: Create a space where notes can be placed; one area for worries and a separate area for optimism. Whatever worries are being carried throughout the day, you can write it on the worry wall, so that the thought is externalized. When you put it up on the wall, you then write an optimistic thought to place on the optimism wall. This way, you can be internally in control of your thinking, “which makes you internally control your emotional reality.”
* Mindfulness Glitter Jar: Fill a jar with water and glitter. When you need to take a moment to become more relaxed and calm, shake up the jar—the glitter will swirl around and fill it completely. When we’re stressed, our minds and bodies are really busy, so to counteract that we can stop and take long deep breaths and watch the glitter fall to the bottom of the jar. You’ll start to feel more calm, as the water becomes clearer.