Over the last decade, childhood bullying and its prevention has received more attention. However, it remains a common problem across playgrounds across the country. A 2014 study found that a quarter of all children in the United States experience it at one time or another.

If you’re the parent of a child living with incontinence, you’re probably worried. After all, the stigma of losing bladder control still persists, even as other medical conditions gain more acceptance. In conjunction with National Bullying Prevention Month, here are some tips on how to help your incontinent child deal with bullying and social isolation in school:

  1. Ask for discretion from teachers and school administers. Chances are, you already have a plan in place with the school for when your child has to use the bathroom. However, this plan may alert other children to the fact that your child is different. Things such as using the employee washroom to change or taking extra time in the bathroom could single your child out. Talk with your child’s teacher and school administrators about using as much discretion as possible. Ask them to watch out for signs of bullying, and to tell you if they think something is up.
  2. Teach your child to self-catheterize. One study found that children who learned to self-catheterize at an early age were able to maintain close friendships and take part in normal childhood activities such as sleepovers and camp. Depending on your child’s needs, they may not be able to learn to self- catheterize, but making an effort to teach them can go far in helping them achieve independence.
  3. Give your child tools to deal with bullies. Encourage them to speak up and let teachers and administrators if they’re being bullied. As we mentioned above, self- catheterizing can help children overcome social isolation—and it can also give them the confidence they need to stand up for themselves. Establish an environment at home in which their condition is accepted. If a child can accept themselves and not be embarrassed by their condition, then they could take away the bully’s power to humiliate them.

While bullying persists, you and your child can take these steps towards creating a more inclusive environment. Johns Hopkins Home Care Group wants to ensure that your child is getting the most out of school and social interactions. We can also help by making sure you have the supplies your child needs to manage their incontinence and have staff available to discuss options to help with proper selection. Please contact our Pediatrics at Home division at 410-288-8040 or visit us online for more information.

Learn more about urinary incontinence in children in the Johns Hopkins Medicine library

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