Why it matters

At ERIC we understand the profound impact that continence conditions can have on the lives of children, young people, and their families.

We believe it's crucial to shed light on these challenges to raise awareness and provide support.

The social impact on children

Battling a wetting or soiling problem can ruin a young person’s life. Living in constant fear of the next accident, particularly if it happens at school or with friends.

Many affected children struggle with anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. Cruel name calling and bullying are commonplace, and many young people feel isolated and alone.

George's Story

When I was younger it affected my emotional and social wellbeing because I did not understand my body and what was happening. I felt different from other children and my friends. I avoided social activities, such as sleepovers or school trips.

There is a real need for better support from health professionals and teachers. There is a real lack of education and specialist support in school which creates real challenges for young people to be able to share what is going on for them and the help they need.

I didn’t ever want to disclose my continence problems at school to either friends or teachers because I was worried about the stigma, bullying and social isolation.

Sadly I still feel guilt, shame, humiliation and have lost my self-esteem. Sometimes I feel quite helpless and hopeless.

Read more about George's experience of managing with bedwetting.

The effect on children's education

Because of their condition, children and young people miss out on school trips, sports days and sleepovers. Many struggle with their education, missing school because of their health issues.

In some cases, children are being pulled out of school to be home-schooled because of a lack of available support in schools.

I dreaded going to school and was always thinking about when the next soiling incident would happen. Some of the teachers were ok if I needed to go to the toilet in a lesson. Others made a fuss, and it was so embarrassing. I kept my distance from other kids at break and lunch time as I was always worried about the smell. But having no one to hang out with was so lonely. I hated my life.

Freya, 14

In summer 2019, 318 parents and carers responded to an ERIC survey looking at the impact of bladder and bowel conditions on families. They told us that 14% of children missed more than a month of school due to their bladder or bowel condition.

Watch to hear young people with bowel and bladder difficulties talking about the difficulties they face at school.

The burden on families

And the impact is felt across families. 74% of parents and carers who responded to the our survey lost time off work, with 13.5% reporting they had taken off more than 20 days.

A childhood continence problem affects the whole family, and for some, the strain can bring them close to breaking point.

The financial burden of nappies and continence pads, constant cycle of washing clothes and replacing soiled ones can put an added burden and the emotional toll on those families whose day to day lives are restricted by trying to cope with a medical condition that they feel they can’t talk about.

Before the day has started my daughter wakes up, knowing that she’s wet the bed and that it smells. We must dig deep to remain patient and understanding. She needs to be reminded that we don’t blame her in any way and we’re not angry with her. Sometimes after I’ve loaded the washing machine with sheets and duvet covers for the tenth time of the week I feel like crying - not for me, for her, because she has to bear this struggle.


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