How to prevent childhood constipation

a smiling little girl in a playground

Constipation is not how often bowel motions happen; it’s the difficult passing of hard stools. It’s normal for some children to have a bowel motion daily, but for others, one to two times a week is normal. True constipation, which is the passing of hard and dry stools, can be painful and distressing, especially for young kids. It’s a common problem in childhood and has many causes. Fortunately, occasional episodes of constipation won’t cause any health problems, although you should take action as soon as possible, to ensure it doesn’t become chronic or more severe.

Signs of constipation in kids include:

  • Complaints of pain during a bowel movement
  • Crossing legs, crying, refusing to sit on the toilet, or running around‐ all signs of holding on
  • Complaints of tummy pain
  • Having accidents (in chronic constipation)

There are many causes of constipation in kids, although it can sometimes be difficult to work out the reason.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to help reduce the risk of it happening:

  • Are they drinking enough?

With all that running around and playing, kids need plenty of fluids to ensure they stay hydrated. Be sure to encourage them to drink plenty of water throughout the day.

  • Are they eating enough fruit and veggies? A good diet is really important for good digestive health. Fibre is especially helpful in ensure things are working smoothly. Try to include fibre rich foods like wholemeal bread, rice, cereal and plenty of veggies and fruit. Dried fruits are also a great healthy high fibre snack option.
  • Do they have a regular toilet routine?

Kids sometimes ignore the urge to use the toilet because they’re too busy playing, or they hold on because they’re scared of pain or they don’t want to use the toilets at school. Encourage them to try to use the toilet at a similar time every day and using a reward system such as a sticker chart can also be helpful.

  • Are they getting enough exercise?

Jumping, running, skipping, kicking ‐ whatever form of exercise your kids love best, it’s sure to get their muscles, and tummies, working. Encourage them to get outside and get moving. Fresh air and sunshine will also do them a world of good.