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Questions about starting school

Here are some common questions that we get from parents about children starting school.

Our son is starting reception in September (he’s an early Sept baby so will be an older starter). Whilst he has been perfectly toilet trained since he was nearly 3 we cannot get him ‘dry’ at night. We have tried fluid charts, rewards, chatting, reducing later drinks etc but his pull up is always wet when he wakes. I have looked at ERIC and can’t see anything we aren’t trying. Should we be worried? 

No. Please don’t worry. Being dry at night can take much longer than during the day. A fifth of 5 year olds are still not dry at night, so that’s quite a lot of children in a class. Not waking at night to go to the loo is something beyond his control and can be caused by a number of factors: 

  • The bladder may not stretch enough to hold all the urine he produces at night (this may be because he’s not drinking enough during the day) 
  • He may produce lots of urine at night (due to a lack of the hormone called vasopressin) 
  • He may not receive the signals to wake when their bladder is full (a deep sleeper will sleep through the signal) 

So what can you do to help? 

  • Make sure he gets plenty to drink during the day – approx. 6-8 water based drinks, which with a busy child who wants to be active, can be a challenge! 
  • Stop drinks one hour before bedtime 
  • Make sure before he goes to bed, he goes to the toilet and then goes again just before lights out. This is what is called a “double wee” 
  • Make sure he has easy access to the toilet, not restricted by doors or toys! The way to the toilet needs to be lit: either by a night light or with a dimmed bulb 
  • If your child is in a cabin bed or bunkbed, think about his access to the toilet – it can be tricky negotiating a ladder or steps at night time! 
  • Positive thinking goes a long way. Help him to realise this is something they will be able to do. Saying “I can be dry” as they go to bed 
  • Rather than rewarding the dry bed, reward the drinking throughout the day. This will help him to associate positive thoughts around drinking rather than being dry.  

Don’t be too worried about this. It also helps your child to see that youre not concerned and you accept this is another phase of his development. If youre starting to get a few dry nights after some of the steps we’ve mentioned above, try removing the pull ups, making sure the mattress has waterproof protector. Sometimes, wearing pull-ups may give the brain a sense of security that it’s ok to wet.  

If it doesn’t work, don’t worry! Keep trying the steps and try again to go without a pull up in a few months’ time. Remember that big changes such as starting school may also cause a period of unsettled behaviours which can include bed wetting. 

Please get in touch with your school nursing service if you need any more help, advice or support. As you mentioned, the ERIC website (opens in new window) gives great information and advice.  

My child doesn’t seem to want to talk about what they do at school. Is there anything I can do to encourage her to open up? 

Try not to worry. 

Sometimes children need some “downtime” away from school to process everything theyve done, the same as adults often do. You’ve been at work all day and sometimes you don’t want to talk about what you’ve done, or you don’t know where to start because you’ve been so busy!   

Take time to let her process her day and relax – coming back home and processing the day is a really important part of her day. The bedtime routine may be a time of day where she might want to share some memories of her day but even then, don’t push or force more information than she’s willing to give. 

Although it’s difficult not knowing everything your childs been doing all day, try not to seem like you’re interrogating her with lots of questions like “who did you play with?” “What did you learn today?” “Who did you sit with at lunchtime?”  

Rather than asking her what she's done, try asking what was the best thing she did at school today?  

Open communication with your school and your child’s teacher will help you to feel ok that she’s doing well and is settled at school. If your teacher is concerned, theyll tell you.  

Our daughter has an epi-pen as she has as severe nut allergy.  Will the school know what to do if she has a reaction at school? 

It’s really important for you to let the school know about her allergy and her prescription for the epi-pen. The school should have an allergy action plan they will ask you to complete. This will give you the opportunity to let the school know exactly what to look out for and how to treat the reaction.   

Additional pens will need to be provided to the school, and you will need to make sure these are within the expiry date and have your child’s name on them.  

The school staff are given awareness sessions on how to manage allergies by the school nursing teams across Bracknell, Wokingham, Reading and West Berkshire areas. School nurses will also be available to support you with any questions or concerns you may have about your child or their allergies.  

About the author

Julia is a Professional Development Lead for School Nursing and Kirstie is Professional Development Lead for Health Visiting and Infant Feeding Lead