Can Nighttime Fears Cause Bedwetting?
Let’s face it – even as adults, it can be a little scary to get out of bed at night sometimes. Maybe an unexpected noise startled you awake, or a bad dream left you gasping for breath only for you to realize that you needed to make a trip to the toilet. In those situations, your rational, adult, logically-thinking mind might make you feel nervous about getting up even though you know you’re safe.
(Pixabay / PublicDomainPictures)
If you’ve told yourself you can hold it until the morning, you should be able to relate to how kids feel when they need to go potty in the middle of the night but are too scared to get out of bed.
It is normal for children to have fears, but as they get older, those fears will change, and you’ll have to modify your approach. The most important thing is to validate the fears and be comforting and available during those fearful moments. A child’s fears may not be rational, but they are entirely real to him or her and need to be treated with empathy.
Zero to Two Years Old
It’s strange to think that a tiny person as young as a few months old can develop significant fears even if he’s led a charmed life up to that point. Fear of costumes, separation from a parent, and loud noises are common in kids under two years old, and they can carry over into sleeping time.
What can you do?
The best thing you can do is provide calm reassurance that you’re nearby (even if it means getting up several times a night to help them calm down). By consistently reminding your child that he is safe and that you are close by, you are reinforcing that he isn’t alone. Solidifying your role as a supporter is essential when he’s young, so later when his imagination starts to run away with him, he’ll know that you will help when he calls.
Two to Four Years Old
Once a child is firmly in the toddler years, fears start becoming more fanciful and abstract. This is also when most children begin potty training, so these fears can hinder the goal of staying dry at night. Kids this age are just beginning to develop an imagination, and you might feel like hitting your head against the wall as their limited language skills prevent them from expressing their fears. Tantrums at bedtime might start to increase, and your child might become clingier, but stay calm. How you respond at this age will help with nighttime accidents both now and in the future.
What can you do?
Change: Change is really hard on kids, and it can cause a lot of anxiety, which can then result in more bedwetting incidents. Know that there may be potty training regression with significant life events (a new baby, a new home, etc.), and be patient as your child adjusts. Usually, all she needs is a little time to get used to the new idea or routine, and the regression will clear up on its own.
Monsters: There is a bit of debate on how to help your child overcome her fear of monsters, so you will have to decide what is best for your child. Some specialists recommend having your child help you look for monsters or spray “monster spray” in dark places to help uproot that fear. Other experts counsel not to “play into” monsters at all as it can validate a child’s fears more than help quell them.
The Dark: Having a dark bedroom helps your child sleep better, so leaving the light on isn’t an option. Instead, plug in a small nightlight or turn on an audio device that plays soothing music throughout the night. When your child wakes up, she won’t feel so afraid of the dark, and the light can help her get to the bathroom safely if she needs to go.
Five and Up
Once a kid hits five, he starts paying closer attention to the people around him and their expectations of him. Fears morph into more social contexts such as embarrassment, rule-breaking, death, sickness, and traditionally scary things like spiders, witches, zombies, and the like. Their brains are continuing to develop, and they often have difficulty knowing the difference between what’s real and what’s imaginary.
What can you do?
Due to the higher level of social awareness that comes with age, there is a lot more shame and guilt with bedwetting. It can be even more upsetting to a child who chooses not to get out of bed due to his fears and then has an accident than for him to have an accident without waking up.
The best thing that you can do for your child at this age is talk to him in a way that he can understand without sugar-coating things too much. Death of a loved one can be incredibly abstract and frightening, but try to address the fear head-on and never lie. Especially where fear of death and bedwetting are concerned, stay away from death language like, “Fluffy went to sleep” as it can exacerbate the problem.
If the fears are about real things (snakes, large dogs, tornados, etc.), spend some time researching about them because knowing more can help lessen the fear.
Whatever your child is afraid of, you need to meet him at his level with compassion and understanding. As frustrated as you may feel (“For the hundredth time, Jimmy, monster’s aren’t real!!”), you will get further by validating his fears and assuring him that you are nearby to help. When accidents happen, stay calm and clean up the mess while offering comforting words and lots of hugs. If your child knows that you’re in his corner when he’s afraid, you can alleviate some of the stress that comes with potential fear-related bedwetting experiences.
As you navigate bedwetting, Peejamas can help. Think of these soft kids pajama bottoms as an alternative to a bedwetting monitor. They wick moisture away so you have to worry less about soaked sheets, but unlike disposable diapers, they still leave a slight wet sensation so your child knows that they need to get up and use the potty. Peejamas can work hand in hand with your efforts to help your child overcome fears and move toward consistently waking up dry.