Preparing Your Child for a Bowel Management Program

You probably feel nervous about starting a program, and now you have to convince your child this is a good idea. The best thing you can do is project a positive attitude. Don’t apologize. Which of these statements is going to be a more successful approach with your child?

“I’m so sorry, sweetie, but the doctor said we have to do this. I wish you didn’t have Spina Bifida and could poop like everyone else. But maybe it won’t be too awful.”
“I am so excited you’ll be going poopy on the big potty like your big sister/Mommy! Pretty soon, you’ll be wearing big kid undies! Want to pick some out the next time we go to the store?”

Be prepared that this process—especially at first—will be frustrating and messy. If you need to have a meltdown, go cry in your closet. Don’t lose your positive attitude in front of your child. “Well, that didn’t go as planned! We’re going to need to keep practicing until we get this right.”

Make up a silly name for it. Calling your child’s bathroom time “Code Brown” will make her feel like she’s in on a fun secret, and innocent bystanders won’t know the intimate details of her life if she brings it up in public. One family calls their cone enema the “Magic Poop Wand.” Now who could be nervous about that?

Experienced parents suggest promoting a bowel program as a “big kid” activity and providing LOTS of incentives! Especially during the first week, make the experience as positive as possible. Offer treats and privileges you might not normally. For example, you may visit the dollar store for a few new toys to pass out each night, or promise ice cream after (or during!) the enema, or allow her some screen time that usually isn’t allowed. DVD’s, games, and coloring. Some parents say that a tablet is an essential tool for starting a bowel program! Maybe you promise that the whole family will go out to a movie to celebrate the end of the first full week.

Many families say that bowel time is a “party in the bathroom.” Younger children who don’t desire privacy will enjoy having siblings and parents come in to keep them company. Perhaps one child gets a bath while the other is sitting on the toilet. Over time, you’ll back off on the hoopla and decrease the incentives, but the positive feelings tied to bathroom time will remain. You will be able to leave the bathroom to get grown up things done and can just check in from time to time. Bathroom time is an ideal chance to do homework, since the child has to sit for so long anyway. Involve your child in the process. Allow him to help set up the supplies, or at least choose the movie and push play. Give him as much choice and control as possible, but whether or not to do the program is not negotiable.

Even when a bowel program gets difficult, remember it is well worth it for your child to be healthy and socially continent for stool.

Next: Why is Bowel Management Important