Bladder Control: Supporting your child’s good bathroom habits while at school

We get a lot of great questions from parents about bladder control and healthy bladder habits. We’ll be fielding questions from you and answering them weekly! This week, Physical Therapist Shannon Forrestall addresses parents concerned about the bathroom and their school-aged child.

Q: My child is a creature of habit. She’s having some “issues” with the bathroom at school. We’ve worked hard on good habits at home, but when she’s at school, I feel a little lost not being able to help. What are some ways I can support my child’s good bathroom habits at school?

A: Anyone with experience raising children recognizes the success of ‘’potty training’’ as worthy of parental celebration. You may think, “oh, finally done with diapers! Done with the cost, the stink, and no longer needing to wrestle the alligator on the changing table!”  The good news is yes, bye bye diapers. However the ‘’potty training’’ really never ends. Even older children will often still require reminders to interrupt play time for a trip to the bathroom or gulp of water.

But what happens when you’re not there? When children become ‘’school age’’ and leave your direct supervision for good part of their day, it is up to them to carry through with the healthy bathroom habits you’ve established at home. Your child may run into a few obstacles at school that may interfere with maintaining the good ‘’potty’’ behaviors that you’ve both been working on.  Your role now is to be their “off-site support staff. “

Here are a few tips to support your child’s good bladder habits at school:

1) Talk to your child about about using the bathroom. Parents may be surprised to hear that their child is NOT going for various reasons (for example: they might be afraid of self-flush toilets or they might be ‘’too busy’’. Some children are embarrassed or self conscious about an odor they leave behind or sounds they make on the toilet.)

2) Talk your child about what they are drinking.  Your child might not be getting any water at all during the school day. Talk to their teacher and see if your child can keep a reusable water bottle with them during the day. Letting your child pick out their own bottle can encourage them to drink water more often.

Some children may be avoiding drinking water because they feel like it will “make them go more.” Help your child understand that a healthy bladder is a hydrated one. Abstaining from drinking water can actually cause more frequent trips to the toilet.

Some kids will even say that they don’t like the taste of school water—have them fill their water bottle at home before they leave for the day.

3) Pack a healthy lunch. Nix the sugary drinks and juices—they can irritate the lining of the bladder. Fiber-rich foods like fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are not only healthy—they help to regulate, too.

And Don’t:
Be afraid to address any concerns with teachers or school administration regarding bladder control.  They should be an ally in ensuring your child feels safe and comfortable with basic needs such as using the bathroom and drinking water.