Why does my eight-year-old still wet the bed?

17 June 2011, by Phillip Hodson
Child still wets the bed? All things considered, it is nothing to worry about, says psychotherapist Phillip Hodson ,.

Bedwetting could cost you a lot of Persil, but otherwise should be nothing to worry about. Photo by Poniol60

Unless you are extraordinarily unlucky the bed-wetting question is only about laundry: would you rather wash your child’s sheets in Ecover or Ariel? For there is almost certainly nothing medically wrong. Six per cent of eight-year-olds still wet the bed, and so do three per cent of ten-year-olds (and one per cent of adults). By all means consult your doctor and have tests done but this is a problem that broadly manages itself.

Let me remind you of a further fact. We all came into this world with absolutely no bladder control of any description. The wish to pee was simultaneous with the act of peeing. (If we live long enough, we may depart this world in a practically identical state.)

Therefore, in order to keep our water to ourselves, we need to teach our brains how to know when the urge is imminent and send a signal to the bladder to shut the valve. For developmental reasons, this knowledge and control is not evenly distributed among children. It’s a bit like puberty: some get there earlier, some later.

Next fact: fresh urine is sterile and has always been preferred by soldiers as a battlefield antiseptic in the absence of any alternative. I won’t dribble on about Indian prime ministers, English actresses and a few sexologists and fetishists drinking their pee for the health of it, but please stop thinking of urine as DIRTY because it’s not.

For these and other reasons, never have a go at any growing child who wets the bed, because the matter is not under their mastery. The exceptions are also fairly obvious. If a child who was previously dry becomes wet after an emotional crisis you can appreciate why. Help them with their bad dreams, yes; otherwise just educate them to GCSE level in doing laundry.

In fact, the only ‘treatment’ worth thinking about for eight-year-olds is a series of confidence boosts to help cope with their needless sense of ‘shame’. It is clearly wise not to drink pints of Coca Cola prior to sleep. A rubber undersheet is practical. Your GP can prescribe a ‘pad and bell’ system to help wake them up at the first signs of leakage (wetness triggers an alert). You could also enquire about hormone or drug therapy, but again, mainly to raise morale and definitely not because your child is deficient or has a disease.

Finally, keep them off the booze. This, as you may remember, is one of the main causes of nocturnal accidents among adults.

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