Children's Growing Pains

Ask Mike early show
Family and Adolescence Counselor Mike Riera answers questions emailed by Saturday Early Show viewers. This time around, he has advice for the parent of a child who suffers from emotional trauma.

He also gives advice to a parent whose teen-age daughter finds it difficult to break up with a boyfriend. And he suggests to another parent some ways to cope with a rebelling pre-teen.

Also, Riera has some suggestions and factual information for parents whose children wet the bed.

The first letter reads:

Dear Mike,

My 17-year-old daughter has been dating the same boy for two years, and he's a great kid. I sense that she would like to date other people. She tried halfheartedly breaking up, but he is adamant about staying together. Should I wait it out or indirectly encourage her to break up?


She has given you as explicit a request as any teen-ager can. You have to trust your intuition on this one, just be careful how you respond. Don't be too excited. Saying, "I'll tell you how to break up with Johnny! I always knew you could do better," will only push them closer.

Instead, be direct and say something along the lines of: "If you're wanting to break up with Johnny and become friends with him, I can probably help, if you want."

If you're more comfortable writing, put it in a note first. As a parent you want her to do this on her own, but she probably needs your active support, which she needs to know that you're willing to provide.

You want to stress to her that breaking up now is taking responsibility, while just going off to college and letting it drift is not. Also, it's not fair to him if your daughter no longer cares about him. She may see going out with him as the kind and compassionate thing to do, but it isn't. Think of him, too. It's best for it to happen while he's at home and his family can support him, too.

Then, just after she breaks up with him, get into the habit of lingering about her room before bedtime because that's when she'll open up the most about how the break-up is going.

The second letter reads:

Dear Mike,

Our grandson is 6-years-old and wets his bed every night. Should we be looking for a physical or emotional cause for this?


Unless there is lots of turmoil in your grandson's family or this is a new behavior — he hasn't wet at night for more than a year and it's happening again out of the blue — then it's probably physical at this age.

We're talking about enuresis, which is the involuntary voiding of urine beyond the age of anticipated control. And believe it or not, this affects up to 20 percent of 5- to 6-year-old children and about 1 percent of adolescents, or between five and seven million children. Since this issue is embarrassing, most kids don't know these statistics, so it always helps to tell them that this happens to a lot of children.

This topic is a big one between parents and grandparents because in the past it was a sign of parent competency to have your child sleep dry from age 4 or 5, so lots of extreme measures were taken to ensure this result.

Often, there is a genetic predisposition to bedwetting. Between 75 percent and 85 percent of these children have one parent or other relative who experienced the problem as a child.

Some kids are simply deep sleepers who are hard to wake up. Some studies even suggest that the bedwetting is the result of a deficient hormone in the kidneys. Basically, bedwetting at age 6 is not an emotional, learning or behavioral problem.

Most kids will simply outgrow it. Patience, support and encouragement from family members are essential to overcoming this problem, which is why kids should never be punished for it.

Treatments for bed-wetting include bladder control exercises; changing the child's eating and drinking habits so that they aren't consuming liquids before bed; waking the child periodically throughout the night to empty himself; motivational therapy, which means giving the child treats for dry nights; behavior modification techniques, such as moisture alarm systems; and medications. In the interim, I suggest pull-ups and an attitude of positive expectancy.