Miss L is 7 and continually soils her undies (heavy skid marks) and once at the local pools, pooed her togs. We thought this was because she was lazy and didn’t want to leave the fun to go to the toilet. We considered that this might be the case also with the skid marks in her pants as she often doesn’t eat her lunch at school in favour of playing. However, nothing we seem to be doing to discourage her is working and I am wondering if there is a deeper issue here. She also wets her bed at night.
Firstly, thank you for your email and for reaching out for help for yourselves and Miss L.
Soiling and bedwetting, while unpleasant, are relatively common issues in young children, with some children simply taking more time than others to become consistently dry and clean throughout the day and night. If the problems continue to persist after the age of 7 however, it is a good idea to look more comprehensively at the underlying causes and to seek support and guidance. Without more comprehensive details it is difficult to pinpoint what the likely cause of Miss L’s bed wetting and soiling may be, as there could be a number of factors involved.
Understanding soiling and bedwetting in children
Here are some steps to getting more information about what is happening with Miss L:
- Make an appointment with your GP to rule out any physical or medical factors that may be contributing to the problem.
- Keep a detailed record of times when the issue occurs so that patterns and factors can be identified.
- The information you have collected in your records will help your GP point you in the best direction and indicate where to go next, if they can not help you directly, whether that is a medical specialist, a psychologist, physiotherapist, occupational therapist, counsellor or coach.
To manage the soiling and bedwetting with Miss L:
- Acknowledge that there is a reason for this issue, whether physical or psychological in nature, even if the exact cause is never discovered, and remove the guilt, shame and stress associated with bedwetting and soiling.
- Position yourself as a supportive ally and focus on helping Miss L figure out what’s going on, work towards a solution and help her develop skills and strategies to manage the issue.
- Involve her in the decision-making and process. Children often have more insight into what is going on for them than we realise and even when they don’t or aren’t able to verbalise those insights, involving them in problem solving is always worth the effort.
- Teach her practical strategies to help her minimise and mange the issue, such as, going to the toilet before she plays, listening to her body signals, slowing down when she cleans herself. Some children benefit from revisiting the basics of toilet training and personal hygiene, as well as, being taught specific strategies, such as, how to use toilet paper most effectively.
- Teach her practical strategies to manage the issue, when and if it occurs so that she knows what to do, how to do it and can minimise any embarrassment associated with accidents.
- Keep it simple. Start with the easiest solutions and strategies first and work your way forward from there, tracking progress, celebrating successes and making adjustment as necessary as you go.
- Stick with what works. If having a night-light on enables her to confidently manage night time toilet trips then buy her a night-light that she can take with her wherever she stays the night and help her develop the skills to advocate for herself in using the nightlight in other homes. While this may not apply to Miss L, some children who experience nighttime bed wetting as a result of not waking up when they need to go, benefit from training aids, such as bed wetting alarms.
- Help her develop some relaxation and stress management strategies. You may like to check out these articles that outline some techniques you may find helpful: Emotion Management, Positive Thinking
- Do you best to manage your own stress and mindset with regards to the dealing with the issue too. While it is a challenging issue to manage, keeping focused on solutions rather than problems and remembering that Miss L is not the problem – she is having a problem, can go a long way towards reducing the stress.
- Continue to keep the lines of communication open and give her the opportunity to air her worries and find solutions. Here, it really helps to focus on the things we can control and manage our thoughts and feelings regarding the things we can’t control.
There is a lot you can do to help Miss L but you don’t have to go it alone and can’t be expected to have all the answers and solutions – continue to reach out for help and support starting with a visit to your local GP. And trust that with the right strategies and support that Miss L will work her way through this in time.
Wishing you all the best and hoping you find the above suggestions of some help. I’d love to hear how you get on!