As parents, we commit a lot of time to preparing our children for ‘Big School’. We shop for the ideal lunchbox, we teach shoe-tying (or if we’re smart, we buy Velcro!) and spend light years labelling everything. But how can we prepare our children with bowel and bladder issues to manage their toileting needs at school?

Preschool to “Big School” is a Big Jump!

The Preschool/nursery environment is very different to the school environment. At Preschool, toileting is fairly relaxed – the bathrooms are within the classroom, children often have toilet time together in an open space, there are several educators on board to assist and it is fairly normal to change clothes throughout the day.

Starting school, however, can bring a whole new set of toileting expectations for your child. Whilst there may still be a bathroom in the classroom, suddenly your child will need to ask to go to the toilet.

When they play in the playground, the bathroom might be a considerable distance away and may look very different to what they are used to (think darker, bigger, noisier and a lot more crowded).

Your child will also be expected to use the bathroom independently – something that your child might still be 'working towards'.

In addition, children with bowel and bladder challenges can have a very different toileting routine compared to other children - something they cannot simply ‘switch off’ because school is starting.

These differences might include needing:

  • More frequent bathroom breaks compared to other children

  • Additional supplies when toileting, such as extra clothes, wipes and nappy bags

  • Requiring a longer time frame to use the toilet

  • Using a different bathroom to the class bathroom where there is more space for supplies to be stored

  • Assistance from an adult

Working with Your Child's School Teacher

Bowel and bladder challenges are significant medical conditions and should be treated accordingly, just like any other childhood condition like Asthma or Diabetes. The first step is to sit down with your child’s classroom teacher and develop a Management Plan for their specific toileting routine.

Use ERIC's sample health care plan and get more tips on talking to your child's teacher in this blog post

Top Tips for a Smooth Toileting Transition:

  1. Start Early: Meet with your child’s current nursery/preschool educators and explain that you would like to start preparing your child for school toileting. Come up with a plan together to grow your child’s independence in this area. It might be having your child be responsible for getting new underwear from their bag or telling their educators when they need help.

  2. Pack a Supply Bag Together: Spend time with your child packing a ‘supplies’ bag for big school – this may include clean underwear, wipes and nappy bags. Go shopping together and have your child pick out a special container to keep this all together. Keep one box in your home bathroom/toileting area and take another box to preschool. By practicing accessing and using these supplies in all environments, your child will become familiar and confident when it is time to use them at School.

  3. Decide on a Code Word: Help your child to come up with a ‘secret signal’ or ‘codeword’ that they can use when they need help with toileting at School. This can also be used at Preschool/Nursery and at home. Practicing in these environments will again help your child to become more familiar with this in the school environment.

  4. Use a Social Story: Your child’s toileting routine contains a lot of information! From who to ask for help, how to ask (what the secret signal is), which bathroom to use. This can be overwhelming for a child. Reading through a social story can help your child to internalise the information at their own pace and prepare themselves for the routine. Download a free, personalised social story for preparing your child for the school toileting routine is available.

Transitioning to School brings many emotions and ultimately, we want to see our children soak up the fun and adventure that school is meant to be. Through planning ahead and putting some simple strategies in place, we can help to support our child to thrive at ‘Big School’.

Visit our Help at School area for more info and support

Author Bio:
Melissa Yapp

Melissa Yapp is a speech pathologist and special education teacher. When she is not working or spending time with her husband and two spirited children, she can be found creating resources for professionals and families. For more free visuals, articles and giveaways, follow Melissa on Instagram @melissayappwriter