The key to ending bedwetting once and for all is to encourage your child’s mind and body to work more closely together but as every parent who has a child that’s stuck with a bedwetting habit will tell you, it’s easier said than done. As the tenth anniversary edition of Stop Bedwetting in Seven Days by author Alicia Eaton is published, we caught up with Alicia to find out her golden rules when helping children stay dry at night.
Alicia uses a variety of techniques including hypnotherapy and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) in her behavioural change programme. Developing 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. She says “over the years, I noticed that the majority of children who came to see me for a consultation were dry that same night. Keeping dry, however, often proved much harder, which is why I started giving visualisation exercises as homework and an audio recording to listen to as backup”
How to Stop Bedwetting: The 9 Golden Rules for Parents
1: Words Work
Bring things out into the open and talk to your child about the problem. Many parents shy away from doing this to avoid making a fuss about it but you can begin to plant positive thoughts in your child’s mind by doing this. Explain that soon they’ll be able to keep themselves dry all through the night and won’t need pull-ups. Putting the idea into your child’s mind triggers important thinking processes towards getting dry at night.
Use phrases like: ‘It won’t be long before you stop needing pull-ups at night-time….’ and ‘When you’re dry at night, you’ll be able to…….’ or ‘I expect that will happen pretty soon, don’t you think?’ When your child hears you that you believe they can and will have dry nights soon, they will start to believe this too.
2: Step by Step
Explain they will need to visit the bathroom during the night if they need it. Walk through the steps they’ll take and practise this several times, telling them you will leave lights on so they’ll see their way easily.
3: Deeper Sleep
Avoid leaving night-lights on in the bedroom. A dark bedroom promotes deeper sleep patterns and this might be enough to ensure your child sleeps through and not need the toilet. It’s possible to buy a night-light with a motion sensor which will only come on if it your child gets up out of bed and this might be an ideal solution if your child gets worried in the dark.
4: Plan Ahead
It’s best to stop using pull-ups after the age of five as the increased absorbency of the latest types means your child’s skin won’t be feeling particularly wet and this will stop those vital messages reaching the brain. Put a date in the diary for a couple of weeks ahead and let your child know when they’ll be able to stop using pull-ups, rather than taking them by surprise.
Prepare for wet beds and try to view any accidents as valuable learning experiences. Use an absorbent bed mat in between 2 layers of sheets. If your child does wet the bed, you’ll be able to remove the top layer and use the dry sheet underneath.
Ensure the bedroom floor is clutter-free to make it easier for your child to move around at night. If they sleep in a bunk bed, consider placing a mattress on the floor to make it easier for them to get up to visit the bathroom, during this training period.
7: Food & Drinks
Avoid drinks one hour before bedtime, but don’t restrict fluids during the day as this could lead to constipation which is a common cause of bedwetting. Avoid fizzy drinks and sugary foods as these are known culprits and drinking milk at night-time can also cause a problem. Eating too much wheat can have an irritating effect on the bladder and it’s also best to avoid fruits such as strawberries, melons and grapes in the evenings as they act as a diuretic. Every child is different so it’s useful to start keeping a food diary to make links between what your child eats and the pattern of their bedwetting.
8: Avoid rewards and bribes
They are a distraction and it will be doubly disappointing for your child if they’re not successful one night because they’ll start thinking about missing out on the reward. Your child’s focus should be on learning how to stay dry at night and highlighting the positive benefits of staying dry at night should act as an incentive.
9: Keep track
Keep a diary during your training period recording information about the types of activities they undertook during the day. This will make it easier for you to figure out what the cause of a wet or dry night might have been.
More about The Seven Day Programme
The programme consists of a combination of listening, drawing and visualising activities, and the variety means they will suit all learning styles. They all serve the same purpose and that is for children to gain a better understanding of the problem and create more positive images in their mind, as this will turn things around.
Up until now, life will have consisted of smelly pull-ups, wet sheets, extra laundry, embarrassment and feelings of failure. Parents and children will have a very good idea of how they don’t want things to be and after a while it can become quite hard to imagine a positive future. This makes it a lot harder to achieve night-time dryness as having positive images in our mind is what will encourage the body to act accordingly, leading to success for your child.
How The 7-Day Programme Works
Visualisation exercises encourage new neural pathways to develop – much like they do when learning how to ride a bike, play the piano or swim. Repetition is the key to success and this is easy to do if you’re learning how to ride a bike but much harder to do with an abstract concept like keeping your bed dry at night. Studies show that visualising yourself doing something is a clever way of helping the body to make vital changes on the inside and this is where the 7-day programme comes in. Top golfers, tennis players and footballers regularly use these types of techniques to improve their performance. They ‘mentally rehearse’ themselves being even more successful in order to improve their stamina, strength and technique to stand more chance of becoming a winner. Changes made inside the mind translate into changes in the body.
And in just the same way, my programme guides children through a series of exercises that will enable their body to feel as if it really does have full control over the bladder and that getting up in the middle of the night to visit the bathroom is just one of those things that they can easily learn how to do. There isn’t always instant success for everyone and there may be a few wet nights in the first couple of weeks, but it still continues to surprise me just how many children ‘get it’ and are able to put an end to this miserable habit as quickly as they do. Over a period of three to four weeks, a pattern of dry nights begins to get established for most children.
If the thought of using hypnotherapy with children sounds a bit strange, fear not. Children’s minds are being programmed in a hypnotic fashion all through their childhood – it’s how they learn new things. Their minds are like sponges and it’s the reason why they will pick up a foreign language more easily than an adult.I tap into this clever developmental phase and encourage children to think about how their bodies work and what it is they need to do to keep their beds dry at night. 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 in an effort to find more natural solutions for their children’s problems.
However, the general lack of understanding about how these methods work means it’s still quite common to be prescribed drugs and medication for a bedwetting problem but fortunately, attitudes are starting to change. Developments in the field of neuro-science over the last ten years mean we understand so much more about how our brains work and the positive effect visualisation techniques have, so it makes sense to put this knowledge to good use.
Alicia Eaton is a Children’s Behavioural Change Specialist, and author of Stop Bedwetting in Seven Days (Practical Inspiration Publishing).