Bedwetting and back-to-school time

When do children outgrow bedwetting?

Most children will outgrow bedwetting on their own over time.

  • At 5 years of age, 15% wet the bed; at age 8, the number drops to 6% to 8% of children. Even without treatment, only about 2% of children still wet their bed by age 15.

Bedwetting can add extra challenges during the school year – challenges that go beyond damp sheets. Bedwetting can affect your child's emotional and social well-being and school performance. It can also cause considerable stress for parents.

Here's how bedwetting may affect your child's school experience:

Emotional issues: Bedwetting can take a toll on your child's self-esteem and overall mental health. Children may feel anxious or embarrassed about their bedwetting. They may also feel as though they are helpless to deal with the problem. This leads to high levels of stress for children.

Social issues: Bedwetting can also damage your child's social life. Your child may be afraid that people at school will find out about their bedwetting. As a result, they may become less sociable and more withdrawn. For example, they may avoid school trips or sleepovers because of fears that they will wet the bed. If peers find out about the bedwetting, your child may be teased or bullied.

School performance issues: In addition to its social and emotional effects, bedwetting can have a negative effect on your child's school performance. For example, your child may have difficulty concentrating in school because of lack of sleep due to frequent nighttime awakenings or fears that their bedwetting will be discovered by peers.

These social, emotional, and school performance issues may occur year-round, but they can be particularly difficult during back-to-school time, when your child is adjusting to the demands and stresses of a new school year.

Bedwetting can make back-to-school time harder for parents as well. It can be stressful to settle back into the morning rush of getting ready for school. And when your child wakes up in a wet bed, it means you'll need to change the sheets, do extra laundry, and bathe your child, which adds up to more morning stress for you and your family! Worrying about how bedwetting affects your child's school experience can also be stressful for parents.

But you're not alone! Many families are affected by bedwetting, and effective treatments are available. If your child wets the bed, talk to your child's doctor about having the problem evaluated and treated. Treatment can help improve your child's self-esteem and may help relieve some of the stress caused by bedwetting. This can translate into a better school experience for children and less stress for parents.

Wanted: a good night's sleep

Bedwetting can rob your child – and you – of a good night's sleep. Younger children may wake up frequently during the night because of bedwetting. This wakes up parents and other family members. The ringing of a bedwetting alarm can also interrupt the family's sleep. So what's a parent to do? Here are a few ways to help everyone in your family get their rest.

Seek treatment for bedwetting. There are a variety of treatments available for bedwetting, including medications, alarms, and behaviour training. Talk to your child's doctor about the treatment options that may be right for your child. This can help everyone in the family enjoy a better night's sleep.

Get your family into a routine. Going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, even on weekends, can help you sleep better. Help your family get into a sleep routine by setting bedtimes and wake-up times that are appropriate to your child's age and school schedule. Speak to your doctor for more information on an appropriate sleep schedule for your child.

Make the bedroom a place for sleep. Keep your bedroom quiet and dark. Make sure your window coverings block out unwanted light, and use a fan or a white noise machine if background noises are a problem. Avoid eating, talking on the phone, or watching TV in bed.

If you have been trying to sleep for at least half an hour, get up and do something quiet, such as reading, for about 20 minutes. Then go back to bed and try to fall asleep again. Lying in bed and worrying about falling asleep will just keep you awake.

Worrying about tomorrow? Take an extra half hour in the evening to set out everything your family will need the next morning. Get the coffee maker ready, plan your outfits for the next day, and ask the kids to pack their school supplies. This will help with the morning rush.

Have your child empty their bladder before bedtime, and make sure it's easy for them to get up in the night to use the washroom. You may need to add night lights in the hallway or move your child closer to the bathroom.

Make sure your child doesn’t drink too much fluid before bedtime. If they get thirsty, give them sips of water instead of a full glass. Avoid caffeinated beverages before bed as your child may have trouble sleeping and may need to go to the bathroom more often.

By following these tips, you're well on your way to helping your family get the sleep they need during back-to-school time. Contact your doctor if anyone in your family is having frequent sleep problems.

Dealing with teasing

Bedwetting can be an embarrassing problem for your child, and it can increase their risk of being teased or bullied. But the good news is that you can help your child deal with teasing and bullying.

Make your home a haven. If your child is being teased at school, then the last thing they need is to be teased at home. When bedwetting occurs, take it in stride – don't let anyone in your family tease your child about it. Avoid punishing your child or making them feel guilty. This will help boost your child's self-esteem.

Watch for warning signs. Your child may try to hide the fact that they're being teased or bullied at school. Here are some warning signs to watch for:

  • Your child doesn't want to go to school or makes excuses to avoid it.
  • Your child's grades start slipping.
  • Your child starts dropping out of extracurricular activities they used to enjoy.
  • Your child is having trouble sleeping or has frequent bad dreams, stomach aches, or headaches.
  • Your child seems upset when they come home.
  • Your child comes home with injuries, missing possessions, or ripped clothing.
  • Your child doesn't seem to be eating.
  • Your child doesn't seem to have many friends.

Talk it over. Talk to your child about what's happening at school and listen to what they have to say. Avoid being upset with your child – let them know that you do not blame them or feel disappointed. Ask them about whether they have any new friends, who they spend time with during breaks, whether there are any kids they don't like and why, and whether other kids may be picking on them or teasing them.

Take action. If your child says they're not being bullied but you still suspect they are being picked on, try talking to their school to see what they have observed. Work with your child and the school to find ways to deal with the teasing. Try role-playing different responses with your child to help them get ready to deal with the bullies. Help them find ways to make friends, as this will help them feel more popular and make them less of a target. Make sure that your child knows to contact a teacher, principal, or other authority if they feel they are in physical danger.

Together, you and your family can find ways to deal with teasing and bullying. If these tips don't help, seek professional assistance from a counsellor. Talk to your doctor about treatment options for bedwetting, which may be a root cause of the teasing.

Handling school trips and sleepovers

For children who wet the bed, sleepovers and school trips can be a scary experience. Many children will go out of their way to avoid spending the night away from home for fear that they will wet the bed. But bedwetting doesn't have to mean saying "no" to overnight trips. Here's how to help your child get ready for a sleepover or school trip:

Talk to your child's doctor. If your child has a sleepover or school trip coming up, there are treatment options available to help them stay dry. For example, medications can be used to prevent bedwetting while your child is away from home. Check with your child's doctor to find out which options are right for your child.

Use medication if appropriate. Your child's doctor may recommend the medication desmopressin to help them stay dry away from home. It works by reducing the volume of urine that your child produces during the night to levels normal for a non-bedwetting child. Desmopressin can start working the first night it is taken. Before the trip or sleepover, make sure that you and your child understand how to use the medication and what to expect during treatment.

Be prepared. Help your child pack their things. If your child is using a bedwetting medication, make sure they remember to bring it and know how to use it. Discuss what your child will do if they wet the bed during the night. Having a plan in place will help them feel more in control. Good preparation can relieve stress and help your child enjoy themselves.

These tips will help you and your child get ready for sleepovers and school trips. If you have any questions or concerns, talk to your doctor. Find out about the effective treatments that are available to help your child to say "yes" to these activities without fear of wetting the bed.