Dear Mr. Dad: My 7-year old still wets his bed. He’s terribly embarrassed about it and doesn’t want to have sleepovers with friends—at our house or theirs. He seems really stressed about it, and the problem is getting worse with time. How common is it for a 7-year old to be wetting his bed at night? What could be causing it—is it something we’ve done or is he doing it to send us a message? And how can we help him to stay dry?
A: Let’s start with the easy stuff: Nighttime bedwetting is a lot more common than most people think. According to Steve Hodges, co-author of “It’s No Accident,” 20% of five year olds, 10% of 6-year olds, 7% of 8-year olds, and 5% of kids over 10 have occasional or frequent accidents at night.
Before we get into the causes and cures, it’s important to understand that bedwetting is rarely anyone’s fault, and it’s really unlikely that your son is doing it to get back at you. However, you could be making it worse if you’re shaming or punishing your son (more on that below). He already feels plenty of shame, and the toll it’s taking on his self-esteem could be what’s making the problem worse.