How to help your pre-schooler prevent daytime wetting

Parents often confess the pressure of achieving potty training perfection sends them into total panic, but the reality is that one in seven four-and-a-half-year-olds experience daytime wetting. This ranges from a damp patch in a child's underwear, to failing to reach the toilet in time to urinate.

While we are swamped with guides full of success stories of toilet-trained children at very early stages, there are far fewer miracle books when it comes to relapses and a school start date looming.

The first port of call should be to the GP to rule out a medical problem such as underlying infection or constipation.

Then if the doctor feels the wetting is likely a behavioural problem, this does not simply equal "naughty" behaviour. Alina Lynden from ERIC, The Children's Bowel and Bladder Charity, explains why.

"A child failing to say if they are wet isn't necessarily them denying it. Some can genuinely get used to being wet and it's not uncomfortable. They are not socialised like we are about that sort of thing."

Reducing liquids can make the problem worse, as they need to be well hydrated to learn.

"Children should be drinking six to eight cups of water-based fluid each day," advises Alina.

"Accidents may get worse to begin with when a child is encouraged to drink adequate amounts, but can be demotivating so try rewarding all other good behaviour."

It's normal for a child to take four to seven toilet trips per day, and the temptation to increase urination and drain an immature bladder has little benefit.

"It's often helpful to tell them to go to the toilet at regular intervals rather than asking if they need to go," continues Alina.

"But by encouraging them to go too frequently the bladder is never going to learn to increase capacity because it hasn't been allowed the chance to fill.

"Very sugary drinks aimed at children can also be a trigger, irritating the bladder."

Encouraging boys to pee sitting down can be effective, and rhyming storybooks for pre-school children, rather than toddlers, can be a huge help in getting little ones to listen out for cues to go for a wee.

Schools have a duty to care for your child and starting reception being a huge step in itself, accidents are not uncommon.

ERIC also advises familiarising your child with the facilities at a new school to reduce nerves.

"Accidents can be demotivating so try rewarding all other good behaviour," adds Alina.

It's natural to feel impatient when a pre-schooler seems too busy to break from playtime to go for a wee, but if the problem is not improving by the time a child does turn five, then Alina advises returning to the GP for further investigation.

ERIC helps children and teenagers with both wetting and soiling problems so rather than feeling fraught with worry or shame, support is out there. Visit or call the helpline on 0845 370 8008.

A former senior editor on the Daily Express Saturday magazine, Denise Marshall specialises in lifestyle and parenting.


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