A follower recently inquired as to why her child hates going to the bathroom, and what can be done about it. After 15+ years as a pediatric physical therapist, I’ve seen many issues related to pelvic floor dysfunction and bathroom habits. I’ve often had times when fully potty trained children wet themselves during sessions or had bowel movements in their undergarments. So after receiving this question, I decided to write a blog post on the subject.
1. Your child may not want to stop what they are doing to use the bathroom.
Maybe your child resists leaving the TV, video game, or activity to use the bathroom simply because they don’t want to stop having fun. If you remind your child the game, toy, and fun activity will still be available when they return from the bathroom, you may alleviate some of their apprehension about taking a bathroom break. Gentle, non-scolding reminders for a few days to use the bathroom when needed may also help.
2. Your child hates going to the bathroom in places other than your home.
Lets face it. Most adults aren’t exactly thrilled to be using public bathrooms so why would your child be? However, since your child may spend majority of time outside of your home during the day, it is important to address any insecurities and/or fears they may have. Speak with your child about their fears of using school and public restrooms. Get school personnel involved if need be. If your child spends days/nights at a different home with additional family members, maintain open communication with all other caregivers about your child’s bathroom habits.
3. Your child may be fearful of using the bathroom if they’ve had a negative past experience.
If your child has ever had a UTI or a painful bowel movement in the past, they may inadvertently begin avoiding use of the bathroom to avoid further pain. Unfortunately, this behavior feeds into a cycle of withholding of urine and poop. This can result in, or worsen, pelvic floor dysfunction. If you think your child may be avoiding urination or having bowel movements due to pain, please contact your pediatrician and seek help from a pediatric pelvic floor physical therapist.
4. Your child doesn’t feel the urge to urinate or poop.
Does your child rarely seem to need to urinate or poop? Is this a new behavior? In #3 we discussed how children may begin to withhold urine and/or poop after a painful experience. After an extended period of time of tightening their pelvic floor muscles and disregarding the body’s signals to use the toilet, your child may not feel the “urge” to urinate or poop as they should. This is a sign of pelvic floor dysfunction and should be addressed promptly.
What to Do if your Child Hates Going to the Bathroom
Any, or all of these situations can lead to, or be a present sign of pelvic floor dysfunction. Pelvic floor dysfunction can result in urinary or fecal accidents, bed-wetting, constipation, abdominal/pelvic pain, and more. Consult with your doctor and seek help from a pediatric pelvic floor physical therapist. A pediatric pelvic floor physical therapist can help your child achieve healthy bowel and bladder habits in a non-invasive way by addressing muscular imbalances, postural deficits, neuromuscular re-education of the pelvic floor, and more. As with so many areas of development, childhood is the time to set up a good foundation for pelvic health.
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