Jo Chesterman and Flo In this guest post, Jo Chesterman shares her strategies for encouraging her daughter to relax on the toilet after suffering with ongoing constipation.                

My daughter Flo has had constipation and soiling issues since she was 2-years-old and building in a regular toilet routine has been a crucial part of dealing with this, alongside a maintenance dose of Movicol. I've had to be very creative along the way as getting a young child to want to sit on the toilet and then stay on it has been quite a challenge!  

Breaking the withholding habit

After months of withholding, Flo will not say "I need a poo" and ask to go to the toilet - she will just do what she has always done and fight it. By having regular toilet time and tweaking the Movicol to keep her poo soft this is making a difference to the soiling incidents during a typical day.    

Perfect times to poo 

Our bodies naturally get ready to poo around 20 – 30 minutes after we’ve eatenHelped by the Movicol she takes daily, Flo’s response is strongest in the morning so toilet time after breakfast is ideal.  A good morning poo has become our holy grail and usually means the rest of the day will be accident freeWe also encourage Flo to have toilet time after our evening meal. There are many times ‘nothing’ happens, but to reduce accidents and stop her withholding we have found that twice a day is ideal.  

A good morning poo has become our holy grail

Overcoming a fear of pooing  

Experiencing constipation has left Flo feeling frightened of the feeling of having a poo and she tenses up. To help her overcome this fear, I’ve developed strategies to engage and relax her. Flo will still try and resist saying, "I’m not going" or "I don’t want to have toilet time." but there’s many ways to draw her in by being excited about the activity she will get to do or a story we will read.   

Flo on the toilet

Flo happily distracted 

Top toilet time tips  

Here are my top tips for making toilet time fun:  

  • Storytime: a new book which you only read on the toilet, favourite stories or a magazine. A small tray or hard backed book to rest on is really handy. 
  • Art and craft activities: drawing a picture, colouring in books, making a card for a friend, stickers, practising letters, drawing pictures of each other, even a bit of painting (yep!).  
  • Lego building – this is where a tray is essential.    
  • Blowing bubbles – brilliant for helping Flo to relax and find the muscles she needs to push poo out (I get Flo to blow my wrinkles away or blow at my hair!). 
  • Cutting – like most children, Flo loves getting a pair of scissors and cutting up paper or card.  
  • Have potty time instead of the toilet if this is too big a jump.  
  • Rewards can work wonders but remember to reward effort as this is much more motivating especially in the early days.  
  • Try to use the phrase ‘toilet time’ as much as possible because some children clam up the minute they hear the poo word.  

Hard work and patience  

Getting this in place has been HARD work and there have been times when it was impossible to get her willingly to go to the toilet and stay there.  However, I knew from what the books I’d read and speaking with the ERIC bowel and bladder helpline that this was what we had to do.  I also knew that if she could tell we were getting worked up about it she would sense it was a big deal and dig in even more.   

Reaping the rewards with gentle distraction

After over a year of working on this, a consistent toilet time has become a normal part of our daily routine. What has been crucial is making it somewhere that Flo wants to be, and wants to stay. And giving it plenty of time. In the early days, it could take up to 15 mins before Flo had a poo. We near enough always keep her company, though we are starting to get her settled on the toilet and potter around upstairs/nearby rather than sit next to her!    

Read more about Flo's struggle with constipation in Jo's story.