There really are few differences between the causes of adult and child constipation. In general, constipation is caused by poor diet, lack of fluids, illness, medication, or lack of physical activity. Any one of these factors, or a combination of them, will lead to child constipation and all the pain and discomfort that goes along with it. However, it is much more common for emotional concerns to be the source of child constipation than with adults.
One of the most traumatic rites of passage for any child is potty training. For the first time, children must wait to have bowel movements or urinate. The sudden attention on what used to be a perfectly natural function is sometimes too much stress for children to bear. Child constipation arises out of potty training when the child withholds bowel movements due to stress and too much attention.
In addition to the causes of constipation listed above, delaying bowel movements can lead to constipation as well. So, when a child withholds a bowel movement during potty training because of stress or “the pressure to perform”, child constipation may begin. Unfortunately, this may mean that even when the child is ready to have a bowel movement it is simply not possible. Confused by the betrayal of their bodies, children may develop even greater stigmas about potty training as a result of child constipation.
The other big emotional cause of child constipation is the school bathroom. If potty training had been difficult in the privacy and comfort of their own home, just imagine how stressed out children may become when first exposed to a public bathroom! The mere presence of other children in the bathroom can be enough to cause a child to “hold it” until they get home. Of course by then it may be too late and either be painful or not happen at all—hence, the onset of child constipation.
For children of preschool age and up to 12, a stool softener is often prescribed as a constipation remedy. Older children may be given the softener in tablet form or perhaps even a mild laxative. If stress is causing the constipation, parents will want to talk with the children about why they need the medicine and take steps to help the children become more comfortable with their bowel movements. It may still be a good idea to add some fiber supplements, plenty of fluids, and lots of physical activities to the child’s routine as well—after all, it won’t hurt and will certainly loosen the stool and help maintain regularity.
It is important to remember that any medicine used to treat child constipation should use only natural ingredients. Using harsh chemicals in the treatment of child constipation can cause side effects such as dehydration—which will actually cause the cycle to start all over again! Child constipation is actually a pretty common condition so don’t let the child know you are worried about their regularity and you may just find that they will stop worrying too! Use only constipation remedies with all-natural ingredients and be sure to include plenty of fiber, water, and exercise in your treatment plan.