Saturday, February 9, 2008

Early to bed...

One of the most difficult things for the parents of children who wet the bed to enforce is a bedtime. Part of the reason for that is the fact that enuretics usually figure out at some point that when they stay up late, they are less likely to wet the bed. It's not fail-proof, but there is enough of a correlation that the kids pick up on it. So they have a difficult time going to sleep. Many times parents misinterpret this as just a symptom of fighting sleep because most kids do that at some point in their lives (or, if they are like mine, they all fight it all the time). Remember, if your little night owl won't fall asleep until midnight even though you put him in bed at 8:00, punishments and even rewards are unlikely to help.
Our son had us at the end of our ropes when it came to bedtime. He would lie in bed, unable to make himself fall asleep, and dream up all kinds of things to be afraid of. And because he spent 4 or 5 hours agonizing over an illustration on the cover of a children's book (a condensed version of Dracula in one particular instance), he couldn't stop worrying over it even during the day. It was so bad at one point that he would not even walk into one of the bedrooms in broad daylight without someone accompanying him. My husband tried talking him out of it in his way; I tried talking him through it in my way. It wasn't until we were a couple of weeks into the $2000 enuresis clinic program that his seemingly irrational fears started to subside.
I also did some research into general sleep issues in children. It turns out that when children's sleep rhythms are out of whack (real technical terms here, I know), they just literally can't fall asleep until their internal clocks say to do so. Well, when our first son was born, my husband and I were both full time college students. We stayed up late and slept in nearly every day, and we would keep him up with us so that he wouldn't get up so early. Hindsight would be so much more effective if it came at the time ya' needed it, no? And then after college my husband would leave home for work at 6am and get back home between 7pm and 10pm. So if the kids were gonna get to see Daddy at all, they had to stay up late. We would go to the park at night and shine the van's headlights onto the playground just to be able to spend some time together. No wonder the boy's a nightowl.
So those professionals in all things bedwetting had some tips for us. First and foremost: never make a big deal about his irrational fears. Often what we fret about the most with our children will never get better until we let go and give them room to get past it. (That's from me, no charge, not the pros). Second: let him have his nightlight (even all the lights on, if that's what he wants). Third: practice patience and compassion. So for a while, we let our son have a very bright lamp on in his room. He also left the door open and had a bright light on in the hallway. He lay in the bed reading books until he was ready to sleep (yes, often still around midnight), and I just started easing back his rise and shine time. Today, without our prompting at all, he sleeps with the door closed and the lights off. More often than not, he goes to sleep within 30 minutes of bedtime (which the pros recommend to be between 9 and 10).
As a matter of fact, he's snoozing beautifully right now, and he's not wet the bed in a long time. God bless sleep!

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