Not many people talk about it, but everyone does it. Everybody poops. Parents may miss important clues when they avoid talking to kids about bathroom habits and instead just hope that everything is working correctly. When bodies aren’t working well on the inside, kids often show it through their behavior on the outside. Children who become uncharacteristically irritable, anxious, and slow-moving or sad may be having difficulty going to the bathroom. Bathroom troubles can also lead to ups and downs in appetite, sleep disturbances, and accidents outside of the toilet. If a quick parental check-in about bathroom habits raises multiple red flags, it may be worth a call to a qualified medical professional.
Poop Problem Clues
If a child is not having a bowel movement everyday AND reports that it hurts when he or she goes, it warrants further discussion. Frequency is different for everyone, so not going everyday does not necessarily mean someone is having problems pooping. Examining the physical evidence in the toilet can help a parent decipher how things are going back there. Something coming out the backside that seems like it should not be able to fit inside a child’s body is another clue to potential bathroom troubles. A call or visit to the child’s doctor will help confirm or alleviate concerns.
Kids who are on-again/off-again having trouble going to the bathroom are often on-again/off-again hungry. Once a child who may be having difficulty has gone to the bathroom, appetite usually returns to normal or increases. A diet high in simple carbohydrates such as crackers, pasta, and chips, with little fiber can gum up the system. Sometimes what many parents think of as “kid friendly food” is all kids want to eat and it can be difficult to get the variety nutritionists recommend. A quick, honest, check of what’s going in will help when it comes to figuring out if everything is coming out normally.
Sometimes kids hold stool in during the day so that it doesn’t hurt when they go to the bathroom. Pretty smart given most people, even adults, don’t want to feel pain if they don’t have to. Muscles relax during the night and there is no conscious effort from a sleeping child to “hold it” in. Night-waking may be one of the clues worth mentioning to a medical professional especially if a child wakes up in the middle of the night to have a bowel movement.
Accidents Outside of the Toilet
Parents are usually pretty surprised when a child, especially an older child, has an accident. Accidents outside of the toilet are rarely done on purpose. It’s embarrassing for most kids! Accidents outside of the toilet are also confusing. Often toilet accidents happen when everyone is having fun! Having fun often involves physical activity. Physical activity can move things through the digestive tract that have been sitting in there for awhile. Getting the recommended amount of daily activity can actually prevent problems with going to the bathroom.
Uncharacteristic Mood Changes
Mood changes in kids may be due to many factors. One surprising possibility is when mood and behavior problems come and go along with not going and going to the bathroom. The discomfort of too much poop inside can lead to grumpiness, not feeling well and/or vague physical complaints, not wanting to do anything, and just general unrest in kids. Depending on developmental level, kids don’t always associate the way they feel on the inside with how they are behaving on the outside.
It is not always easy figuring out what is going on inside a child. A good guideline for kids, their behavior, and going to the bathroom is to think of it as a puzzle where one piece may not mean much, but many pieces together clarify the entire picture. It also helps to have some pretty frank conversations. Seeing what comes out of a body helps parents learn what is happening inside of a body. When parents look at and talk to their kids about bathroom results, it makes talking about poop just part of keeping bodies healthy!