700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

Toileting for Kiddos With Complex Colorectal Needs

May 25, 2021
child sitting on a toilet holding toilet paper

In the United States, toileting is often viewed as a private time that is usually not openly talked about outside of toilet training. With children who have complex colorectal needs, their toileting time may look different with less privacy and more time needed in the bathroom. These children may feel “abnormal” due to their colorectal needs and could lead to difficulty accepting their diagnosis or connecting with peers. It is important to support children with complex colorectal needs through encouraging them to share about their diagnosis with peers as they feel comfortable, discussing changes to their body and body image, and helping them cope with new medical equipment and experiences.

Socializing With Peers

Talking with friends about colorectal needs helps to normalize their diagnosis. One way to help your child feel more comfortable with this is helping them describe what they are going through in terms that are easy to understand. For example, an enema may be better described as “medicine that goes into my bottom to help me poop.”

Another way to support your child is allowing your child to choose with whom they would like to share about their diagnosis and how much they would like to share. Some children choose not to share about their diagnosis at all while some find enjoyment in talking about their experience.

Changes With Body and Body Image

A way to help your child feel at peace with their changing body could be talking to them about how the changes will affect their body. The conversations could be about how their new flushes, enemas, or ostomy will benefit them overall. It is also important to validate how changes to their body and feeling different can be difficult.

Promoting Coping

Children with colorectal needs will sometimes require rectal enemas, antegrade flushes, or ostomy bag changes. Children can be uncooperative with these daily activities. As the parent, it is important to be able to know how to help your child cope. One technique could be distraction. Using a special toy, book, or activity the child typically does not have access to can often be an effective method for younger children. Often, families will also use screens as a distraction during their toileting times.

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Featured Expert

Jackie Cronau, RN, CWOCN
Center for Colorectal and Pelvic Reconstruction (CCPR)
Mitch Ellinger, CPNP-PC
Pediatric Colorectal and Pelvic Reconstructive Surgery

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.