When children wet the bed regularly, parents quite understandably worry. They wonder if it’s happening as a result of anxiety at school, or a developmental delay, or even problems with bladder function. Children’s Behavioural Change Specialist and author Alicia Eaton* offers reassurance, and some great practical advice.
In my experience of running a children’s bedwetting clinic for over 15 years, I have found that in most cases the cause is simply habit. Somehow over the years, a child gets into the habit of wearing pull-up pants or similar absorbent protection and never gets to grips with staying dry all through the night. It’s as simple as that.
Most families then find themselves caught in a Catch 22 situation. They never feel confident enough to stop using absorbent pants completely and this is understandable. Going ‘cold turkey’ can generate feelings of embarrassment and failure as well as lots of extra laundry.
But at the same time, hanging on to night-time pull-up pants, hoping that this problem will somehow magically disappear (it rarely does) never quite gives the child’s mind the opportunity to allow the key neurological pathways to wire up and create that ‘auto-pilot’ for staying dry at night. And this is where the solution lies.
But getting stuck wearing night-time protection is becoming more and more common. Have you noticed how the supermarket shelves are increasingly stocking night-time ‘pull-up’ protective pants for teenagers up to the age of 15? A generation ago, these did not exist to the same extent. Make no mistake, the manufacturers are more than happy to keep on making these in all sorts of fancy designs and colours to keep you and your child happy.
I believe that the super-absorbent quality of these nappies or night-time protection pants actually tricks the child’s mind into thinking they’re simply not wet. And so the vital connection between the actions of the body and the results produced are never really made. It’s like trying to learn to play the piano wearing sheepskin gloves – it’s very much harder if not impossible, to do. My advice to all parents of bedwetting children has to be ‘bite the bullet’ and stop using this protection from around the age of five or six years.
I believe that the super-absorbent quality of these nappies or night-time protection pants actually tricks the child’s mind into thinking they’re simply not wet.
The key to ending bedwetting once and for all is to encourage your
child’s mind and body to work more closely together. I’ve been seeing
children with bedwetting problems regularly since 2004 and use a variety
of techniques including hypnotherapy and neuro-linguistic programming
(NLP). I have developed a quicker, safer and more natural alternative to
changing the night-time habits of bedwetting children for good, while
also boosting their confidence and feelings of well-being.
Over the years, I’ve noticed that most children who come to see me
for a face-to-face session are dry that same night. Staying dry,
however, often proves much harder, which is why I started giving
visualisation exercises as homework and an audio recording to listen to
as backup. This produced good results, which is why I decided to write a
book about it. It isn’t always an instant success and there may be
several wet nights in the first couple of weeks, but over a period of
three to four weeks, a pattern of dry nights usually begins to become
If the idea of hypnotising and reprogramming children’s minds sounds a
bit strange – fear not. Children’s minds are like sponges absorbing all
sorts of information naturally. You only have to observe a child’s
ability to gaze at the TV and recite the adverts back perfectly to see
this in action. That ‘deeply relaxed state’ enables information to be
absorbed more deeply. In this instance, the information will be all
about having dry beds forever.
Despite its complicated name, NLP is really quite simple. It helps us
to deal with what we think, what we say and what we do by breaking down
our thought patterns and changing them for the better. Techniques such
as hypnotherapy and NLP are, in my opinion, under-utilised in the
treatment of children. But more parents are now turning to them when
traditional methods fail to help.
As a result of the general lack of understanding about how these
methods work, we are still more likely to prescribe unnecessary drugs
and medication for our children, rather than these safer, more natural
CREATING AN AUTOPILOT
Conscious thinking uses different parts of the brain to unconscious learning, so it also makes sense to use these types of psychological techniques as we’re asking children to behave differently when they’re half-asleep – in other words, not very conscious at all! The more deeply we can embed new patterns of behaviour on the subconscious mind, the easier it will be for them to operate on ‘autopilot’.
Most of us have driven a car on a long journey and got to the destination unable to remember too much about the driving part of it. That’s because our conscious mind switched off for a while and started thinking about other things. Fortunately, the ability to drive becomes imprinted on the subconscious mind – remember all those driving lessons you took? Your subconscious mind was able to take over and do the job for you – your very own automatic pilot.
And it’s possible to do exactly the same for your child using techniques that speed up the process of creating an automatic pilot that registers signals from the bladder, wakes them up and steers them in the direction of the bathroom in the middle of the night.
THE SEVEN DAY PROGRAMME
The activities that I’ve devised are a combination of listening, drawing and visualising. They all serve the same purpose and that is for your child to begin creating better pictures in their mind, as this will begin to turn things around. Up until now, both you as a parent and your child have most likely been filled with images of wet sheets, embarrassment and feelings of failure. You probably both have a very good idea of how you don’t want things to be, but after a while it can become a lot harder to imagine a positive future.
Having good pictures in our minds is an important step towards achieving success. Footballers, tennis players and top athletes use these types of visualisation techniques often as they know it makes a big difference to their performance. If the only thoughts and pictures your child has are of wet beds and failures, it’s going to be a lot harder to achieve night-time dryness. What you see is what you get and seeing yourself waking up with a dry bed each morning makes it more likely to happen.
* Alicia Eaton is a Children’s Behavioural Change Specialist, and author of Stop Bedwetting in Seven Days published by Practical Inspiration Publishing. To find out more about Alicia’s approach, visit www.stop-bed-wetting-in-7-days.com/