Being scolded by parents only adds to the youngster’s psychological stress, say doctors

Sometime ago, there were reports from Tamil Nadu and West Bengal about children being severely punished for bedwetting. Among parents, the discussion revolved around how the child should be trained to help him grow out of the habit early, even before he goes to school. A friend of mine said she would ensure her daughter passed urine before going to sleep. Paediatricians, however, consider bedwetting a part of growing up. They grow out of the phase as they learn the routine, doctors say.

The problem is common among children below the age of four but it reduces drastically as the child grows up. Trouble begins when parents stress out the child so much, it has an adverse effect. As it is, the habit is an embarrassment for the child. Being scolded by parents only adds to the youngster’s psychological stress. According to paediatricians, the term ‘bedwetting’ applies only when the child wets the bed twice a week for at least three weeks.

P. Ramachandran, former director of the Institute of Child Health, said, fewer children wet the bed as they grow older but in some children the condition persists, requiring medical intervention. “The instances of bedwetting come down by one per cent every year. It is not just children, but adults too may face this problem,” he said.

According to him, parents may have given the child “aggressive bladder training” which stresses him out. It is possible that the child may have been in deep sleep or simply that his bladder capacity is low during night time.

Paediatricians do not blame children for the condition. It is only over a period of time that children learn to control their bladder. Also, as we grow older, the secretion of vasopressin, a hormone produced by the body, increases and reduces urine output. “Punitive measures will not help the child. On days the child has not wet the bed, it should be rewarded. The child needs encouragement and not beating or scolding,” Dr. Ramachandran says.

A number of novel methods are used to prevent the child from passing urine in his sleep. In countries where children do not share the bedroom with parents, several methods are adopted — like placing sensors or alarms on the child’s undergarment to alert the sleeping child. But these are just temporary relief measures as children will relapse into the habit. “In our country, we advise parents to watch for the child’s bedwetting pattern. The parents could then train the child by waking him half an hour before he wets the bed,” the paediatrician said.

When parents complain of sudden bedwetting, paediatricians check for childhood diabetes, urinary or pinworm infection which could lead to such behaviour.

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R. SujathaJune 28, 2012

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