A Child's Incontinence Affects the Whole Family

The following paragraphs represent a few observations and experiences I’ve had from my time treating children with incontinence, specifically bed wetting, that I hope will be helpful in providing perspective to children with this condition and their families . . .

In treating children with bed wetting, I have come to realize that most kids with this condition and their parents suffer in silence . . .

I can’t tell you how many times a mom has broken down in my clinic feeling awful that she did not know there was help for her child, feeling guilty and ashamed that she had not done something sooner.  Parents may have been told or had the impression that their child was simply going to outgrow it, suffered unnecessarily for several years before they received help.  Typically, only 15% of kids outgrow these conditions per year, leaving the other 85% to suffer in silence if left untreated. 

Parents don’t talk about their children wetting the bed to each other . . .

As a mom of three young boys, I have spent many hours with other moms sharing the trials and tribulations of raising children, in addition to comparing notes on our kids’ developmental milestones.

“When did your child sleep through the night?”  “When did they start walking?”  But we never asked each other the question, “When was your child potty-trained?” or “Does your child still wet the bed?”

One of my children’s friends wet the bed at our house while attending a sleep over.  What is telling about this event is not that it occurred, but that we had been very close to this child and their family for several years without knowing that they had such a problem.  I will never forget how that child looked and how embarrassed he felt.  If only his mom would have told me, I could have helped set this youngster up for success and avoided this humiliating experience.  If I had known, I could have made the following precautions . . .


Not giving liquids just before bed with the other kids    

Provided privacy to change into pull-ups before bed with discretion

Tell the children exactly where to sleep

Dispose of the pull-up early the next morning                                                       


These measures would have provided a more comfortable experience for this child.

The impact of bed-wetting on families is devastating  . . .

I’m seeing an early elementary school child who was successful with potty-training during the day, but continued to wet the bed at night.  As an older child, she is feeling isolated from her friends and shameful as she keeps wetting her bed.  She cannot go to sleep-overs, nor invite friends to spend the night at her house, or go to overnight camps through school or summer camps.  Her parents are frustrated and feel as if they have failed her because she not only missed the milestone of potty-training, but is beginning to miss the social milestones of a young girl.  To say nothing of the constant changing of bed linens, increased laundry and the cost of pull-ups!  

My goal as a physical therapist is to prevent these horrible experiences and let all children experience the joy of sleeping over at a friend’s house, going to an overnight camp without anguish, or missing out entirely on milestone events of being a child.  I also want to spread the word that these children and their families are not alone!  There is help and it should not be viewed as a shameful event!

I look forward to continuing to treat this wonderful population who has been so under-served in our health care system.  This topic should no longer be seen as hopeless, but one that is treatable!

The International Children's Continence Society (ICCS) position statement on bed wetting is: “Not only is treatment (for bed wetting) justified, but is mandatory." 

I couldn’t agree more!

Lori Lukban, MSPT