Ages & Stages
More than one million children in the U.S. are affected by divorce or separation each year.
A recent report issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) addresses the ways in which a child’s pediatrician can help them through difficult transitions.
Talking Through It
According to Skyler Kalady, M.D., a pediatrician at Cleveland Clinic Children’s, divorce and separation can impact children of all ages
“When parents are going through difficult times, children perceive that, regardless of their age,” says Kalady. “So while kids may express their stresses in different ways at different ages, it’s important for parents to be as open and honest as possible, even with difficult situations.”
She says keeping an open line of communication with children is essential, but that it’s important to keep the conversation age-appropriate.
School aged children might ask questions about when the other parent is coming back, which Kalady says is appropriate for their age.
She stresses that families should not be afraid to talk about divorce openly with their child’s pediatrician. Likewise, pediatricians should always ask kids questions about any changes that they might be going through to help them navigate difficult times.
Kalady says it’s important to remember that consistency and routines are very comforting to children.
“As simple as the same school, the same after-care program, the same activities; of course, if they’re changing households that’s not always possible, but to the extent that they can keep some things consistent, that usually helps children feel safe and know what to expect,” she says.
Pay Attention to Behavior
When children deal with stresses, Kalady says they often internalize their concerns and can display them in many different ways.
Divorce doesn’t impact every child the same and just because a child did not have any issues at the time of the separation, it doesn’t mean that it won’t impact them later down the road....
Families that have little ones at home have likely experienced bed wetting.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, bedwetting is common — about five million children in the U.S. wet the bed.
Nighttime Dryness Delayed
Bedwetting is a medical condition where the brain and bladder aren’t yet communicating with one another at night.
Even though most children are potty trained between 2 and 4 years old, the ability to stay dry through the night may come much later in childhood.
“We usually don’t say it’s a concern until they’re about 7 years of age and then we start talking about, is there a family history of it? Because sometimes if Mom or Dad wet the bed until 10, we can say, well let’s see what happens until 10,” says Audrey Rhee, M.D., a pediatric urologist at Cleveland Clinic Children’s.
Tips to Try
Rhee says there are some things parents can try besides waiting for a child to outgrow bedwetting:
- Fluid shifting — drinking more fluids during the day and less at night.
- Better sleep habits — limiting screen time before bed and going to bed earlier.
- Limit constipation-causing foods — especially foods that contain caffeine.
Research shows constipation, where the bowels press on the bladder, can lead to nighttime accidents, too.
Caffeine also is considered a bladder irritant, which can make a child more prone to accidents. Bladder irritants include citrus, caffeine and even artificial colors and dyes.
“The breakdown of those dyes when the bladder is exposed to it, the bladder doesn’t like it so you’re more prone to bladder spasms (and) you’re more prone to having an accident because of the exposure to it,” Rhee says.
When to Seek Help
Rhee says it’s important for parents to remember that bedwetting is a medical condition and children should not be punished or shamed for having an accident.