Bed Wetting in Teenagers and Preteens
By Elizabeth Danish
There are several reasons that preteens and teens may wet the bed. Sometimes there is something physical or psychological going on, perhaps some kind of trauma. Usually if the bed wetting starts suddenly it is because there is something happening in the teen’s life that has prompted it. There are two specific classifications of bed wetting. The first is called primary enuresis and this is a condition in which bed wetting has been ongoing since birth. The second kind is called secondary enuresis and this is a condition in which bed wetting starts either months or even years after the child has stopped wetting his/her bed. The condition, both primary and secondary is much more common in males but can also occur in females.
Find a Specialist
Obviously, if you have an older child who is wetting the bed then you are dealing with some kind of issue. Whether you have a five year old who has never stopped wetting the bed or a fifteen year old who has suddenly started wetting the bed, the fact is you may want to find a doctor who specializes in issues like yours. If nothing else a specialist can help to rule out medical reasons for the bed wetting. If all medical causes are ruled out then a psychiatric or psychological evaluation may become necessary. In some cases there will be nothing that can be done but it is best to at least seek a professional opinion if bed wetting is causing problems for you and your child.
Hereditary Bed Wetting
Just like any other trait that can be inherited, bed wetting can be something that is passed down in families. In fact, if a child comes from two parents who both wet their beds as children then that child has about an 80% chance of becoming a bed wetter him/herself. Even if a child has one parent who wet the bed frequently as an older child his/her chances of becoming a bed wetter are significantly increased. Most of the time a child who has parents who were also bed wetters will be offered a number of solutions due to the experiences of both mom and dad or either one.
Occasional Bed Wetting Due to Dreams
Most everyone has had an experience in which they dreamed they were sitting on the toilet urinating when in fact they were really still in their bed. It is important to understand that this is an ordinary occurrence and that there is probably no one who can honestly say this has never happened to him/her. Before becoming alarmed over one incident wait to see if it is an isolated occurrence or if it repeats itself. Typically a pre-teen or teen that develops a problem with bed wetting will wet the bed at least twice per week. If a bed wetting occurs but is not followed by another for a long period of time then it is safe to assume that the incident was probably a fluke.
Possible Medical Causes
In some cases children wet the bed because they are simply very deep sleepers. This means that the urge to urinate will not wake them up. However, there are other conditions such as diabetes, urinary tract infections (also known as UTIs) that can cause children to urinate more frequently. There is also a condition which causes lower levels of anti-diuretic hormones to be produced. In this case an excessive amount of urine will be produced during the night and the bladder will not be able to hold it.
Sometimes traumatic experiences can cause children to begin wetting the bed. For example, a child who has parents that are going through a divorce or who lives in an angry and explosive environment are very likely to begin wetting the bed. Sexual abuse is also a major cause of bed wetting. In fact, any change in the child’s life that is causing him/her emotional turmoil can cause the issue.
Parents Should Remain Supportive
It is very frustrating dealing with an older child who is having a problem with bed wetting but parents should never ridicule or attempt to punish this behavior. After all, who sets out to urinate in his/her bed on purpose? Your child is probably quite embarrassed about the situation and making him/her feel stupid or childish will only add to the problem. Let your child know that what is happening to him/her is something normal that happens to many other people and that one day it will stop. If this is something you have been through then you can share your experiences with your child and encourage him/her that you were able to get through it just fine.
Use Mattress Protectors
It should go without saying that bed wetting can be quite destructive to your child’s mattress. For this reason be sure you use a quality mattress covering that can be removed and washed easily. You can either choose an inexpensive plastic mattress cover or you can opt for a more expensive Teflon covered mattress protector. Either one will do the job but some people find the Teflon covered mattress protectors more comfortable and not quite as loud when you are tossing and turning in bed.
Develop a Fluid Intake Routine
Make sure your child does have the necessary amount of water each day. It may be tempting to withhold fluids in an effort to stop the bed wetting but be sure your child drinks enough. The key is to have your child drink his/her fluids during the day and not so much in the evening. Try to have your child stop drinking fluids at least 4 hours before bed time if possible. This may not totally stop the bed wetting but it will minimize the amount of urine present in your child’s bladder, making the accidents a bit more manageable. Always make sure your child uses the bathroom just before going to sleep each night.
Bed wetting will eventually stop on its own. It remains a mystery to the scientific community but rest assured there are not many people who live their entire lives as bed wetters. Even teens who wet the bed typically stop by the time they are 15 years old.