Any parent who has struggled through the challenge of reassuring a sobbing six-year-old after a nighttime accident can attest to the shame and sadness felt by a child in the throes of bedwetting. A child’s self-esteem takes a beating during this time, as they struggle with the experience of feeling powerless over their own body. How you talk with your child about bedwetting and how you react to nighttime accidents will greatly influence your child’s well-being over the situation. Here are some simple tips for keeping the tone positive and inspiring your child’s sense of control:

Get in a Positive Frame of Mind

It is important for your child to know that you are not disappointed angry, or embarrassed by their bedwetting. In order to communicate a compassionate and understanding vibe, you will have to get comfortable with your child’s bedwetting first. If you are embarrassed and ashamed by your child’s nighttime accidents, they will be affected by the incidents, too. Seek out support from your spouse, talk with your child’s teacher, or visit online community forums for advice. Once you feel comfortable with the topic, you will be much better able to help your child in a productive way, stay calm and matter-of-fact, and respond in a supportive manner when they have accidents.

Normalize Bedwetting for Your Child

About the time that most children begin mastering nighttime dryness, they also become increasingly more in tune to what their peers are up to. Social comparison becomes more and more important (peaking in the adolescent years) and the experience of wetting the bed at a later age can be devastating to a child’s self-esteem. Your child will most likely be comforted to know that an estimated five million children over the age of 5 struggle with bedwetting. It is a huge relief to know that they are not alone.

Share Your Own Experiences

If you or your partner have a history of bedwetting (wetting the bed tends to run in families), share your story and experiences with your child. How did you feel about wetting the bed as a child? Did you tell anyone? What did your parents do? And, how did you finally overcome nighttime wetness? Children are generally enthralled with stories about their parents as children, and this is a tale that will be particularly intriguing given that your experience serves as a reminder that their problem is not uncommon and it can be overcome.  

Start Scheming with Your Child

Children who are able to take control of an emotionally distressing problem tend to cope better than children who don’t have an opportunity to take action. Wetting the bed can cause children to feel out of control, so help them manage the situation by sitting down together and coming up with a plan. Do your research in advance on common bedwetting treatments and present the menu of options to your child. Make sure that your spouse is in synch with the plan and that the strategies developed with your child are reinforced by everyone in the household.

Turn to the Library for Help

Check out books at the library covering bedwetting and read them with your child. Prince Bravery & Grace: Attack of the Wet Knights by Gail Gross, Lynne Gorham, and Callahan Malone has comforted many children struggling with nighttime wetness under the age of 9. Sammy the Elephant and Mr. Camel: A story to Help Children Overcome Bedwetting is better for children under the age of 6.

Handling Siblings

Parents often wonder whether they should tell siblings about a child’s bedwetting and most experts agree that, yes, you probably should. Secrets tend to be problematic in families and children can almost always tell that something is amiss. It can be especially troubling for children to hear things, see things, and assume that something is wrong, but not have accurate information. They tend to fill in the gaps (inaccurately), which can lead to other kinds of problems. Thus, straight-forward honesty is most likely best.

Sit down with siblings and explain the situation in an age-appropriate manner. As you did with your child who is wetting the bed, let their sibling know that this is a problem many children struggle with, there is little that their sibling can do to control the situation, and you are working on a plan to help their sibling. It would probably also be useful to remind them that this is a personal manner that should be kept within the family (you can explain that some children are always looking for an opportunity to tease one another, and you don’t want their sibling to be teased for something out of their control). You might also add that there are probably things about themselves that they don’t necessarily want their peers to know about, so imagine what it would feel like for a bullying peer to get a hold of that information. This is an opportunity to practice empathy and put themselves in someone else’s shoes.

Putting it All Together

Although your child may be suffering because of nighttime accidents, there is a lot that you can do as a parent to help them feel better and gain some control over the situation. Get the information and support you need to be able to confidently and expertly guide your child through the process. And, never hesitate to reach out to your pediatrician or other parents. Just as your child is not alone in this situation, neither are you. With the right support network and armed with a plan, your child will be able to confidently begin mastering nighttime potty troubles.