Bed Wetting

Dear Sharon,

My son is almost 8 years old and is still continuously wetting his bed. My wife keeps telling me not to embarrass him by talking too much about it because it is normal for boys to wet their beds until a later time than girls. My girls have both stopped wetting their beds by their 4th birthday. Is this normal or should I worry? When is it too old for a boy to be wetting his bed at night?


Dear Worried,

In last month’s issue of Brooklyn/Queens Family Magazine Lucy Medford wrote, “We don’t know for certain why some children are dry at night before others. But the most likely reason is just a variation in maturity – some children get to that stage before others do. This would explain the way boys are slower than girls to become dry, as they are slower to develop than girls in many other ways, too. What we do know is that night wetting is outside a child’s conscious control. Children who wet at night aren’t being naughty or uncooperative. So becoming angry or exasperated with a child who wets the bed really isn’t appropriate, and it does not help.” I agree. I also think that children’s bodies grow and change at very different rates. I don’t know if there is ever an exact age for stages in a child’s life to come to an end. It is natural for a parent to be concerned if their child finishes a stage like bed wetting later than other children but I believe it will pass in time.

Even though your son is in the older age range for bed wetting I have certainly known quite a few children, including girls, who wet their beds at this and older ages. Because it can be an embarrassing topic that most people don’t share willingly there could easily be other children you know who still wet their beds.

Here are some things you could keep in mind as you think this through. It is always wise to talk with your pediatrician to see if there is anything that you should check physically. To avoid embarrassment, your son should probably not be present for the discussion. There are also alarms you can purchase to help a child know when to wake up and head for the bathroom. Although I have read about alarms being helpful, I unfortunately have not yet talked with any families who have found them useful for more than a limited period of time.

My primary concern is about your son thinking that there is something “wrong” with him physically or emotionally. That could take a big toll on an 8 year old. He might already feel less competent than his siblings, many children do. If he becomes worried that he is “behind” in something this could affect his long term self esteem. An eight-year-old boy is often just starting to develop his social and independent thinking skills. It is an exciting time in any child’s life. If he is feeling embarrassed or inhibited in any way it could impair his ability to develop these very important skills.

If possible I would suggest that you try to wait out his bedwetting days and encourage and praise the rest of his development. Most parents worry about all kinds of things. If is an unfortunate part of the Mom and Dad job description. Whenever a parent is particularly worried I suggest balancing those often-legitimate concerns with some “one on one time” with their child that is full of laughter and fun. Fun can help reduce tension and put anxieties in perspective. It is usually much easier for parents to successfully help their children when they are feeling relaxed and pleased with them.

Good luck, hopefully this stage of your parenting will end sooner than you think possible.