As parents, we all know the day is coming. The day when we have to send our little one off to preschool, full potty trained. The clock is ticking, the diapers are dwindling and the struggle is hard. Children work on their own time frame, we know that, and the age by which a child is fully potty-trained varies; although, most children will begin training between 18 – 27 months depending on readiness. Many preschools and daycares have cutoff dates for when a child has to be completely potty- trained, this can lead to anxiety for parents and children who may worry about potty accidents occurring at school.
If the potty training cutoff seems to coincide with the starting of preschool or daycare, jitters and unfamiliarity by the child can most likely be the cause. Experts agree it is important for parents to slowly ease them into the routines that may come with attending school, and encourage the child to use the bathroom as soon as they feel the urge. Often, children may be embarrassed to ask or get so wrapped up in an activity they may wait too long.
“Preschool-aged children are great at learning routines. They are amazing at learning routines based on their caregiver and environment,” said Sherry Geunes, a local preschool teacher who recently retired after 16 years of working with young children. “ They may have different teachers and assistants based on the time of day with the same general philosophies, but the structure fluctuating slightly, yet even the youngest children adapt easily to the different teaching styles.”
Just like every child, no potty accident situation is ever the same! If accidents do happen, it is important for parents to never punish or make a child feel bad about the accidents, but rather try to emphasize to your child that accidents happen to everyone.
“When it comes to using the potty, I’ve seen children who are potty-trained at home and refuse to go at school; children who spend the school day in underwear/panties and get a diaper before heading home because they are not being trained/ cooperating at home; and those who, once trained, use the potty everywhere they go,” Geunes said. “If a child is potty-trained at home and has accidents at school parents and teachers should work together to find the cause and a solution.”
When potty accidents do happen, it is important for parents to never punish or make a child feel bad about the accidents, but rather try to emphasize to your child that accidents happen to everyone, and the key thing is to move on from it quickly. If it continues to happen, parents should look for ways to remedy the situation.
“Parents should work with the child, teacher and pediatrician concerning bathroom accidents at school,” Geunes said. “Stress is a big cause of set-backs. Are they struggling with the routine at school? Are they just ‘too busy’ or ‘having too much fun’?”
Certain stressful situations at home may also cause potty accidents at school. Parents should evaluate any major life changes occurring such as a new sibling, a separation or divorce, death of a pet or loved one or recent illness. For example, a recent stomach bug may incite a child to fear bowel movements. Many experts also agree that working with the child one-on- one to help avoid accidents may also work well. Enlist your child’s advice on what can be done to avoid accidents, and the parent can suggest that to the teacher at school.
Finally, parents should be sure to reward accident-free days as well as any type of progress in other areas such as learning how to put on their shoes or backpack. “Wow! What a big girl/boy you are now that you are in preschool! You are learning so many things!” Keep a sticker chart and a reward system for a certain number of accident-free days (for example, a piece of candy for one day, a small toy for two or a bigger toy for a week). The good news is that, in most cases, potty accidents will stop as soon as they started. Any regression after that should be treated the same way to help ensure your child is happy and accident-free at school!