August 10, 2013

Most of us moms would agree that potty training is a tedious process that requires a great amount of patience, encouragement, and cleverness. Right? Then, when you're finally able to say, "Goodbye diapers!", or sing, "Ce-le-brate Good Times! Come on!", a curve ball knocks you off your feet, and you think, "What now?".

So, what is this possible curve ball that I'm talking about? Well, I'm talking about a stomach flu, or even the nasty Rotavirus... which can cause a child to have painful and traumatizing bowel movements resulting in potty training regression.

Unfortunately, I had to deal with this very painful experience while potty training my youngest. He was at the point where we were considering him "potty trained" when he got a stubborn stomach flu. After a devastating week of high fever and diarrhea, my son was afraid to go potty. Even though he didn't have the stomach flu anymore, he was afraid to go number 2, thinking that the same painful cramp feeling would happen again. Fortunately, after a few weeks of reassurance, demonstration, and patience, my son lost his fear of going number 2 in the toilet and went back to his normal routine. Praise the Lord!

I'd like to point out that while my son was afraid to poop in the potty, we considered putting the diaper back on him, but decided not to. This is a very difficult decision for many parents, and I'm not in a position to tell any parent(s) which is the right choice for them or their child. Sure, no diapers meant that we had to clean up a few accidents. When they happened, we had to put on our "poker faces" again, and we never judged, criticized, nor did we force our son to go potty in the toilet. It was our choice not to use diapers because we didn't want to confuse him, and we didn't want our son to think that he was wearing diapers again because he did something "wrong". However, you know your child and his/her needs better than anybody else. So, if you feel that the best solution is to put the diaper or pull-up back on your child until he/she feels comfortable to go potty in the toilet again, then please do so.

After receiving a couple of emails from moms who went through similar experiences, I decided to share some of my strategies and suggestions with you. However, keep in mind that every child is different and that these are only some suggestions that worked for my son. If you believe your child's case is severe, I strongly recommend you to talk with your child's pediatrician.

After my youngest son had the stomach flu (plus a horrible case of diarrhea that lasted for a couple of days), he would cry and panic when he had to go potty. This fear is normal. Children will avoid using the toilet because they are associating it with the traumatic experience. One thing you can do to help your child is to speak very calmly and explain that it is safe to go potty in the toilet. You have to pretty much start from the beginning, thinking of "baby steps" again... For example, ask your toddler to sit on the potty for just a minute or less to show him/her that nothing is going to happen (no mess, no awful tummy feeling, etc.), but don't force or command your child! In addition, praise your child for any accomplishment and progress he/she makes.

Amusement, silliness, and creativity are also a big plus to help minimize your child's fear of going number 2. For example, my husband and I explained to our son that the diarrhea was something that happened because his tummy was trying to "fight the bad guys" and send them away from his body. When he was returning to normal health, we made sure to tell him, "Now that you are healthy again, your tummy is doing great! See how your poo-poo is solid? So now, we need to flush it far away!" Create a fun story if you'd like! You might also point out to your toddler that by washing hands before eating or after going potty, he/she can stop the bad germs from getting into his/her tummy.

We also used "to the point" language when talking to our son about going number 2 in the potty. We would say, "It's ok. Your poo-poo will look like a ball, and it will plop right into the toilet. Then mama (mommy or mom) is going to help wipe your bottom, and we're going to flush the poo-poo away." Talk to your child during the process, and show him/her the poo-poo in the toilet after he/she is finished. Tell your toddler, "See, it's just like a ball!"

If you are concerned that your child will still have loose stools after the sickness, then I suggest some starchy foods like bread, crackers, bananas, rice, pasta, and mashed potatoes which can help create a more solid stool. Avoid fried foods and foods high in fat for a while, and avoid fruit juices and sodas that are either too concentrated or contain high amounts of sugar. Yogurt is a good source of probiotics to replace unhealthy bacteria in the intestine with healthy ones (if your toddler is not lactose intolerant).
I really hope these tips help you and your child return to the normal potty training routine! Once again, please understand that these are only tips. If you have concerns about your child's health, well being, and nutrition, always talk with your child's pediatrician.
Wish you and your family all the best! :D
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