Bedwetting When a New Sibling Arrives
The arrival of a new baby is a wondrous event filled with love, joy and happiness. However, to an older sibling, an addition to the family can be stressful and can lead to the presence, re-emergence or worsening of one of the most embarrassing events of childhood: bedwetting.
Bedwetting affects nearly seven million children in the United States alone, according to the National Kidney Foundation. With the introduction of additional stress and trauma, including the stress of a new sibling, the occurrence of bedwetting in children increases significantly, especially in kids who have had previous occurrences.
Older children get excited about the thought of having a new brother or sister. They take pride in announcing that they are the older brother/sister and that this baby is theirs. But even the proudest big brother/sister will experience times when they wish that the stork would have delivered their "bundle of joy" on another doorstep.
According to Dr. Paul Coleman, psychologist, this aggravation is a result of now having to share his/her time with parents. "Older children may show their frustration at having less time with busy parents by either withdrawing or acting passive-aggressively," Coleman says. "They may get sloppier, more forgetful or less reliable, thereby forcing parents to pay more attention to them. Bedwetting is one of the more common examples of this type of frustration."
Crystel, a mom from Clemson, S.C., had challenges with her older daughter when her baby was born. "When my daughter found out she was getting a new baby sister, she could not have been more proud," Crystel says. "But shortly after our second daughter arrived, she began having 'accidents' at naptime and during the night. We discussed it with her, asked her to talk to us about how she felt and did all we could to reassure her that even though we had a new baby, we loved her very much."
What Not to Do
According to Coleman, one of the most important things regarding bedwetting after the arrival of a new sibling is to refrain from shame. "Scolding won't help and it will definitely hurt," Coleman says. "Your child feels bad enough as it is. If you find yourself scolding him, apologize soon. The critical tone is inappropriate. You are only adding to your child's sense of shame."
Rose, a mom from Atlanta, Ga., found herself tired, irritable and frustrated with her older child's wetting the bed after her baby was born. "When he had wet the bed again after numerous other incidences, I found myself yelling," she says. "All of the sudden, a little voice in my head said, 'What are you doing?' So I grabbed him, hugged him and explained to him that I was not angry or upset with him or the fact that he wet the bed, but that I was really just tired from having so much to do. He said he understood, and we changed the sheets together."
What You Can Do
As frustrating as it may be, there are things you can do to manage the situation. While you are working through the stress of the new baby with your older child, you can have your child wear disposable absorbent underpants like GoodNites. These absorbent garments will keep your child warm and dry at night, preventing the shame of waking to cold, wet pajamas and sheets. Healthy self-esteem is one of the most important things growing kids need.
Additionally, using a simple "Teach, Empathy, Reassure, Help" method is effective in dealing with bedwetting, according to Coleman.
"Following the steps will assure all areas of concern are addressed," he says. "Teach your child that they are not the only one with this problem and that they are not strange, weird or abnormal. Let your child know that you understand how upset they are about their bedwetting and that you are there to help. Also let him or her know that you understand how a new baby needing all your time could look as if you don't have time for him anymore. Reassure your child that there are things you can do and products you can buy that will help him deal with and overcome their bedwetting and let your child know that there is enough love in you for him and a new baby. Help your child by offering to work together to change wet sheets, wash wet clothes, listening when they express their concern and allowing them to take care of 'accidents' on their own if they wish to. In addition, allowing your child to help you with the new baby will help him feel included, not left out."
Coleman explains that children, even 10- to 12-year-olds, will regress when a new baby is added to the family, and telling a child to act his age is inappropriate.
"Since regression is normal, your child is acting his age," he says. "He believes that if you act younger, you get more love and attention, and if you act your age, you get less. Again, empathize with your child and then find ways to reward him for age-appropriate behavior."
Jealousy or frustration over a new baby is not fatal. However, it can seem like the worst situation ever to a child who feels replaced, left out or less loved. As a result of this frustration, behaviors can change – and not always for the better. With a little love, patience and understanding, even those problems that seem to be the worst can be minimized. "A child needs to know that they are still an important part of the family," Coleman says. "Parents can do this by involving the older siblings from the beginning of the pregnancy and keeping the involvement at a high level even after the baby comes home."
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