We all have trying times as parents. Whether it’s the ‘terrible twos’, refusing to wear socks in freezing weather, or eating only certain colour foods, we’ve all had to cope with a child who isn’t always easy.
However, the bedwetting phase can be particularly disruptive, not just for your child but for the whole family.
Having to change bedding in the wee hours of the night (pun intended!) and not having enough sleep can take its toll on you all. That’s why it’s important that you look after your own mental health while you support your child through this developmental stage.
Why it’s important for parents to look after their mental health
You remember those early days just after your baby was born, don’t you? When they woke every couple of hours for a feed and a nappy change? Do you also remember the crushing tiredness when you couldn’t get a good night’s sleep?
Well, one of the first things to recognise if you have a child who is frequently wetting the bed is that you will be sleep deprived. That goes the same for your child, and everyone else in the house who gets woken when your child has a night-time accident.
When you’re tired, it’s harder to cope with things in general and you may find that you are short tempered and snap at silly things.
You may also experience feelings of failure. You may worry that you’re not a good enough parent to support your child.
You may worry about your child’s overall health. You may start to wonder if they have a worse health condition.
With all of this going on, it’s really important that you keep an eye on your mental health to make sure that you’re not at risk of depression and anxiety.
After all, it’s much harder to support your child if you’re going through a tough time too.
How to look after your mental health if your child is wetting the bed
Get enough rest
This one is tricky! If you’re working or busy during the day and then having broken nights, you may be quite sleep-deprived.
When you do get back to bed after helping your child to change their sheets and clothes, you may find it’s hard to drift off again. The Sleep Foundation suggests these clever tips for helping you sleep:
A quiet environment. Calming sounds or music can be beneficial.
A focus of attention. A word, phrase, mantra, breathing pattern, or mental image can all be used to draw your attention and reduce thinking about external concerns.
A passive attitude. Accepting that it’s normal for your mind to wander allows you to remain at ease and draw your focus back to the object of your attention.
A comfortable position. Finding a cosy place to relax is critical.
A comfortable mattress.
If you can, consider having a nap just after work or in the afternoon. Even a short, 10-minute ‘power nap’ can help you feel refreshed. Alternatively, make a deal with your partner to take it in turns to care for your child at night if they have an accident.
Give yourself treats
We all love to have something to look forward to. Think about a couple of treats you can plan for yourself or your family—a day out, buying that new product you fancy, or perhaps having a weekend away as a couple without the kids.
Having something fun to plan will make you feel more positive—and you can come back to the situation with renewed energy.
Ignore and banish unhelpful thoughts
It’s easy to get caught up in the experience and feel as if it will never be over. However, having negative thoughts leads to more worry and stress and the NHS suggests:
Try not to get bogged down in negative thoughts and find some positive ones to replace them.
Try some mindful techniques
If you find that you are spiralling into a mode of living where you’re working all day, then having stressful nights due to your child’s bedwetting, you may find that you are in a sort of stressed Groundhog Day. Try some mindfulness techniques to break out of this and give yourself some time to reflect. The Oxford Mindfulness Foundation says:
Mindfulness starts when we recognise the tendency to be on automatic pilot, which can rob us of our potential for living life more fully.
We begin to practise stepping out of automatic pilot by bringing mindfulness to aspects of everyday present-moment experience that we might normally overlook.
With greater awareness, we begin to notice how often we are lost in our thoughts and feelings.
Mindfulness of the body and breathing helps us learn to recognise our thoughts, emotions, sensations, and impulses, gather the scattered mind, and return with appreciation to the here and now.
Use positive affirmation—this will pass
Do some research online. Now, normally this is really bad advice, as you find lots of unhelpful information you’d rather not know.
But if you search for ‘How long does bedwetting go on for?’ or ‘When should bedwetting stop?’ you’ll see that most children get over it quickly. This should reassure you.
If you have concerns about your child’s bedwetting, you should talk to your health visitor or GP.
Talk to other parents
It’s always good to know that you’re not alone—but many parents don’t open up about their child’s bedwetting.
They might imagine they will be judged, or that they are being indiscreet by talking about their child’s enuresis. However, if you start to talk about it, you’ll find that you’re not alone!
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) says that around five to 10 percent of children still wet the bed at seven years of age.
Bedwetting less than 2 nights a week has a prevalence of 21% at about 4 and a half years and 8% at 9 and a half years.
Bedwetting more than 2 nights a week is less common and has a prevalence of 8% at 4 and a half years and 1.5% at 9 and a half years.
This means you know there will be other parents in your friendship groups who are in the same position as you! It’s great to open up, share tips and listen to what helped other families.
The organisation Bladder and Bowel UK says: “Parents or carers often feel as if their child is the only one suffering, as nobody talks about it.”
If you do need advice and help, you can contact Bladder and Bowel UK for advice and help for their specialist nurses and continence advisors by visiting the website.
Looking after your own physical health couldn’t be more important right now. So along with trying to get enough sleep, make sure all the family is eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, good quality proteins and healthy whole grains.
Try to reduce your reliance on caffeine, sugary treats and alcohol, as although they may help temporarily, they won’t help in the long run. Get some exercise and try to get into some green space on a daily basis, to help you reset your mood.
Give yourself a break
While you might try to use helpful and supportive techniques—such as a good bedtime routine—to help your child’s journey to drier nights, sometimes you just need to make sure everyone is happy and sleeping well.