Regressive behaviour

My toilet-trained child has started having accidents. What should I do?

We had parents come to us worried about their child’s development regressing. One that really stuck out was a parent asking about their toilet-trained child who is now wetting themselves. We reached out to Joanna Fortune, a child psychotherapist, for some advice on what to do about regressive behaviour.

Here’s what Joanna had to say about regressive behaviour…

When we make significant changes for children, there can be significant consequences. Particularly, if you have an emotionally sensitive child, it can play out in their overt behaviours – their eating, sleeping and toileting.

First and foremost, rule out that they don’t have any sort of urinary or bladder infection by going to the doctor.

Joanna believes in, “ruling out the physical before assuming something is emotional or behavioural.”

Once you have that ruled out, get curious and playful. Joanna recommends going to ‘A&E – Acceptance and Empathy’. Accept that this is really hard, and empathise with them. It’s important to empower kids to say when something is hard, and be accepting of help, for example being reminded to go to the toilet.

“You don’t want to nag, but you can empathise and create a signal for example, which subtly reminds them that they should go to the toilet and check if they need to go, to avoid any sort of embarrassment of reminding them directly if they need the toilet. You want to be sensitive to your sensitive child.”

If they have regressed in their behaviour, Joanna recommends going back to a different stage of play development to close that gap again: sensory play. Sensory play helps kids to get out of their head and into the ‘now’ moments within their body. When there’s a sensory problem, go back to sensory play to close that gap.

So what can parents do to help?

Rule out any physical problems first, by going to the GP.

Be sensitive to their problem – accept and empathise with them.

Go back to sensory play, as toileting regression can be a sensory problem.

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