Preparing for the first day of school can be stressful for both parents and children – toilet training is a big stress on top of the uniforms to be prepared, books and pencils to be labelled, school lunches to be planned and school drop-offs and pick-ups to be juggled.
For a growing number of parents, there is the added stress of trying to toilet train their child before they wave them off at the school gate for the first time.
According to maternal and child health nurse and continence nurse advisor Janine Armocida, an increasing number of frantic parents are turning to advisory services in the lead up to the new school or kinder year.
Janine says the growing number of phone calls to the National Continence Helpline reflects the fact that toilet training is starting at an older age for many children compared with previous generations.
“Back in the 1960s, experts recommended a child-orientated approach to toilet training, with parents waiting until their child showed signs of wanting to be dry before commencing toilet training,” Janine said.
“This approach was practical when children wore cloth nappies and felt wet and uncomfortable and more motivated to move from nappies to using a toilet. Fast forward 50 years and not much has changed, except nowadays toddlers have the convenience of wearing disposable nappies that keep their bottom dry and comfortable. Why stop to go to the toilet when you are wearing a perfectly good portable toilet?”
Janine says constipation is often the overriding problem in delayed or incomplete toilet training, and many children will continue use a nappy to poo in, long after they have learned to urinate in the toilet.
“Even in children who are wetting their pants, it often comes back to constipation,” she said.
Constipation affects up to 30 per cent of children and can impact on day and night wetting. Almost 20 per cent of Australian primary school children have wet their pants at school and about 7 per cent have regular incontinence.
“Many parents may not even be unaware that their child is experiencing bladder or bowel control problems, which if left unchecked, can cause lifelong continence problems,” Janine said.
“It’s a good idea for parents to keep a close eye on children’s toilet routines, particularly in the lead up to a new school year to make sure they aren’t becoming constipated. Often a change in routine, such as starting school or kinder, can increase the risk of constipation or even cause regression in children who have been dry for several years.”
“If a parent is concerned about their child’s bladder or bowel health, it is important to speak to a health professional for further advice and support,” Janine said.
– This article is written with information from the National Continence Helpline