Finding Support For Parents of Bedwetters
Frustration. That one word sums up most parents' response to their child's bedwetting problem. Cleaning soiled sheets again and again can be frustrating. Figuring out the best way to deal with the problem can be frustrating. Just having to wait until their child's bladder matures can be frustrating. Not being able to share their experiences with other parents can be frustrating. But sometimes just talking to someone or getting advice from those experiencing the same problem can help.
So how do you go about finding someone to talk with, and who do you talk to, especially when your child's privacy is at stake?
Find a Supportive Doctor
The first person you should be talking with about your child's bedwetting is your pediatrician. But despite the fact that bedwetting, or nocturnal enuresis, is a common problem, some parents are too embarrassed to talk to their doctor about it.
"This is a very individualized problem that not many people, especially those affected, want to talk about privately with their physician, much less in a large group," says Dr. Timothy Stewart, a pediatrician in Huntsville, Ala.
But turning to your pediatrician for support is important because he can offer help and suggestions about what treatment options are available. "Most children will outgrow this, but for those who continue wetting the bed past age 5, there is medical treatment that is safe and effective," says Dr. Stewart. "No child should miss out on normal activities like spend-the-night parties and campouts because of this problem."
If your doctor dismisses your child's bedwetting problem as "not a big deal" when you think it is, consider finding another doctor. You need to be an advocate for your child. Although the majority of children suffer no long-term consequences from bedwetting, it is potentially devastating to the emotional well-being of an older child or adolescent.
If you need help finding a supportive doctor, consider calling the The National Kidney Foundation's toll-free bedwetting hotline, (888) WAKE-DRY, where you can request a free brochure on bedwetting, as well as get a referral for a doctor in your area.
"Parents of children with bedwetting should know that help is available," says Dr. Lane Robson of the National Kidney Foundation's enuresis committee. "They might have to search for the local expert or travel to a nearby community ... They should keep accessing the health care system until they find someone who is knowledgeable, has experience and cares. Knowledge definitely isn't enough."
Find a Friend
Although your child's bedwetting is a private matter, talking to a friend or family member you can trust may be helpful. Relating to others can make both you and your child feel less alone.
"Children won't talk to other kids about it," says Joe Peraino, a clinical psychologist in Houston, Texas. "They are too embarrassed about it. Heck, they don't even want to talk to their parents about it. Parents, however, would benefit from talking with other parents."
Kathy's* oldest son, now 6, has only been dry through the night a handful of times. When she potty-trained him during the day, she switched him to disposable underwear at night. "The pull-ups work fine, and it saves him from embarrassment over something he can't control," she says. "I am frustrated with my son's bedwetting and wish I could help him stop, but I was a bedwetter as a child, and I know from personal experience that the child has absolutely no control over this." She has only confided in a few of her good friends about her son's bedwetting, and she says, they're all supportive of her decision to use the pull-ups.
Find a Community
You can also use the Internet to find parents experiencing the same issues. The anonymity offered by an online forum or listserv allows you to share your thoughts and seek out information without worrying that your child will be embarrassed.
You can log on to bedwetting discussion boards at Web sites like iParenting.com and GoodNites.com. You can also join a listserv, where you can talk via e-mail to other parents of children who wet the bed, at sites like YahooGroups.com.
Or if you can't find an online community you like, start your own in-person support group in your area. Sites like www.meetup.com can help you get started. "Support groups are not common for bedwetting children but they could help many parents," says Dr. Robson. "Most support groups start with a set of parents who are driven to get involved. Parental leadership is fundamental to a successful support group."
Opening up and talking with others, says Peraino, will likely help parents feel better about their predicament. "They will realize they are not the only ones with the problem," he says. "They'll discover ways other parents have coped with it and get support."