Causes, Treatments, and Tips for Preteen Enuresis

A sleeping tween with their head on a pillow
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If your tween is still wetting his bed at night, don't despair. It is likely that a few of his classmates are doing the same. Bed wetting, also called nocturnal enuresis, is a common problem that can last well into the teen years. It's estimated that 7 percent of all 10-year-olds wet the bed.

Nocturnal enuresis is the involuntary urination while sleeping by a person who would normally be able to control urination at their age. It is much more common in boys but does happen with girls as well.

Types and Causes of Nocturnal Enuresis

Bed wetting can be divided into two main types:

  • Primary nocturnal enuresis: Refers to persistent involuntary nighttime urination where the child has never had a dry night.
  • Secondary nocturnal enuresis: Refers to onset of nighttime bed wetting after a dry period of at least six months.

Three of the most common reasons for primary nocturnal enuresis are:

  • Genetic predisposition: 75 percent of children who wet the bed have parents who had the same problem as a child.
  • Deep sleeping: Studies suggest that children who wet the bed are very hard to wake up and have a hard time waking to an alarm clock.
  • Reduced production of vasopressin: An anti-diuretic hormone (ADH) that directs the kidney to concentrate the body's urine so your bladder doesn't overfill.

Two of the most common reasons for secondary nocturnal enuresis are:

  • Urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • Diabetes
  • Structural abnormalities in the urinary tract
  • Constipation
  • Stressful situations at home or school

When to Seek Medical Help

A bed wetting tween is not lazy or undisciplined. Instead, they have a problem and will need the help of a physician. It's best to seek help for it now so your child doesn't experience shame and embarrassment.

Bedwetting can take a toll on a child's self-esteem and social life. A child who wets the bed may refuse to go on overnight camping trips with Scouts or he may avoid sleepovers because he's embarrassed.

Even though most children outgrow nocturnal enuresis, it will benefit your child to get help now.

What to Expect During the Exam

When you take your child in for an examination, the doctor will ask questions relating to the situation. You and your child should be prepared to answer questions about:

  • You and your family's health history, past and present.
  • Your concerns and questions.
  • Any medications your child may be taking.
  • Allergies your child may have.
  • Sleep patterns.
  • Urinary symptoms.
  • Bowel habits.
  • Stress at home or at school.

Your visit will also likely include a urine culture and urinalysis to look for signs of infection or disease that may be a cause.


There are medications that may help your child stop wetting the bed. Your physician may also assist you in bladder training your child.

There are also alarms that will wake your child up in the night if she begins to wet the bed. Over time, she can learn to wake herself up before she wets the bed.


Don't make a big deal out of a wet bed. Use this as an opportunity to show your tween how to strip the sheets and do a load of wash.

  • Never punish your child for wetting the bed.
  • If you were a bed wetter, share your experiences.
  • Keep this between your child and yourself. Sharing this problem with other family members or friends will be embarrassing.

A Word From Verywell

You can help your tween through this experience with your patience and discussing it with your child's pediatrician. Your child is far from alone in having this condition. While it can be embarrassing, addressing it can lead to solutions.

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Article Sources
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  1. Tai TT, Tai BT, Chang YJ, Huang KH. Parental perception and factors associated with treatment strategies for primary nocturnal enuresis. J Pediatr Urol. 2017;13(3):272.e1-272.e8. doi:10.1016/j.jpurol.2016.12.025

  2. Tai BT, Tai TT, Chang YJ, Huang KH. Factors associated with remission of primary nocturnal enuresis and changes of parental perception towards management strategies: A follow-up study. J Pediatr Urol. 2017;13(1):44.e1-44.e9. doi:10.1016/j.jpurol.2016.09.012

  3. American Academy of Pediatrics. Bedwetting in Children & Teens: Nocturnal Enuresis. Updated June 26, 2019.