By Taryn Tacher
Becoming potty trained is a milestone for toddlers. It is a giant step away from dependency and a leap toward self-sufficiency. Potty training is a rite of passage that shouts to the world, “this kid is growing up!” So, why, after young children have seemingly mastered going to the bathroom on their own, do they still wet their pants from time to time?
It usually takes about three months to potty train a child. Girls often take to potty training faster than boys do, but as with any new skill, each child has his or her own path to success.
“Children are considered fully potty-trained when they are able to verbalize that they need to go to the bathroom prior to going and are able to use the toilet with little or no help from a grown up. This includes pulling down their pants, climbing onto the potty and wiping their bottoms,” said Dr. Kathryn Wheeler, a UF Health pediatrician. “Every child potty trains on a different schedule, but many children are ready to start by the age of 2 to 2 ½ years and have achieved fully potty trained status by 2 ½ to 3 ½ years of age.”
But even after your child has been fully potty trained, accidental wetting can happen. If your child is wetting his or her pants during the day, it is important to figure out the cause. It may simply be a developmental stage that he or she will grow out of, or it may be an issue that needs medical attention.
Daytime wetting as part of normal development occurs when children are so distracted by playing, eating or other activities that they forget to use the bathroom. These children tend not to empty their bladders completely when they go, and they often skip out on going to the bathroom first thing in the morning. Other children with developmental daytime wetting try to hold their urine for too long. They cross their legs, squirm and hold their thighs together to try to fight the urge. Some are stressed, frustrated or facing other emotional obstacles. According to Dr. Wheeler, stressful events such as moving, a change in routine, the birth of a sibling or other family changes can cause a regression. These types of events make it difficult for their brains to focus on other tasks — like going to the bathroom when they need to.
If your child is peeing more than usual, experiencing pain while urinating or releasing clouded or pink urine, he or she may have a bladder or kidney infection. If your child is leaking while urinating or has a weak stream, he or she may have a defective urinary tract. Diabetes or gastrointestinal problems like constipation can put pressure on the bladder, making it more difficult for your child stay in control.
You can help your child by seeking medical attention to determine the root of his or her daytime wetting problem. Remember to remain even-tempered and to comfort them if they are noticeably upset. Talk to them about what they are feeling — emotionally and physically.