I get a lot of feedback from parents that the Priming Strategy was incredibly helpful in getting their child started on the journey to dry nights. I have outlined it below along with some other strategies to help develop the bladder/brain connection during sleep.
Priming is based on our Prospective Memory- setting something up in the mind that must be remembered in the future. A classic example is telling yourself you need to wake at 6:30 a.m. in the morning and then setting the alarm clock. Invariably, you wake before the alarm because your brain has been ‘primed’ to wake early.
Before your child puts the alarm on at bedtime
- Ask them to lie down and pretend to be asleep.
- Take the alarm and trigger it. You can do this by following the manufacturer’s instructions for the model alarm you are using.
- Ask your child to get up, de-activate the alarm and go to the toilet.
- When your child returns to bed get them to re-activate the alarm.
- Practise this up to four times a night in the first week so they are more ready to respond when they hear the alarm.
Using Your Alarm
Initially, deep sleepers may still sleep through the alarm so you will need to wake them and ensure the toileting procedure is followed. This may be difficult to do. Try using a cold damp cloth over the forehead and cheeks to rouse them.
It is important your child remembers getting up in the night when the alarm triggers as recall is a vital step in activating the connection between the bladder and the brain. If a child has no memory of waking, or being woken by you, then the following strategy may help.
Give your child a code word when they wake in response to the alarm. Use a different code word each night. Ask them to remember it and the next morning repeat it to you. This makes your child focus on their night-time toilet training and start recognising the feeling of a full bladder when they are woken.
Another technique that parents have found useful in helping their youngster develop the bladder-brain connection during sleep is visualisation.
When your child is at home and needs to go to the toilet, ask them first to go to their bedroom, shut the curtains as if it were night time, and lie down on the bed pretending to be asleep. Get them to describe out loud what they are feeling in their tummy and why this is a signal for them to wake up in the night and go to the toilet.
Some children get quite creative in describing the feeling of their full bladder –whatever it takes for the association to stick in their mind is helpful in developing the mind/body connection so they can start recognising and responding to bladder signals during the night.
Night-time toilet training is a process and not all children go from starting to use an alarm to being dry straight away; it usually happens in stages.
Reward Programmes are a great way of engaging your child in the process and a simple reward system, such as a sticker chart, may be all that is needed. If you set achievable goals your child is less likely to become disheartened if things don’t go perfectly to plan. Here are some milestones you may consider rewarding:
- Several nights when you woke your child after the alarm triggered and they got up straight away and went to the toilet;
- Remembering the code word several mornings in a row;
- Consecutive nights when your child woke to the sound of the alarm on their own;
- Dry nights.
- 14 Consecutive Dry Nights -once you child has achieved this milestone they can stop using the alarm as they are now cured!
Finally, don’t forget to reward yourself once your child is cured of their bedwetting. They couldn’t have done it without your love and support!