Sleep-away camp is a childhood ritual that every child should be able to enjoy. But for children who wet the bed, sleeping away from home can be a scary prospect. Kids who suffer from this condition are often worried that other campers will discover their secret, or that camp staff won’t be supportive. But the truth is that most camps are well-prepared to help kids with this common childhood issue, and camp staff are committed to making sure every child has a great camp experience.
Bedwetting beyond the average age of toilet training is called Nocturnal Enuresis. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 3 per cent of boys and 2 per cent of girls still wet the bed at night by age 10. Some kids won’t be dry at night until they have grown into their teens. The good news is that with some planning and preparation, kids who wet the bed can enjoy sleep-away camp just like their peers.
Read on for tips for preparing camp staff and your child for bedwetting at camp.
Find the right gear. There are a variety of disposable nighttime pants on the market. For smaller children, there are Pull-Ups, which can be pulled on and off like underwear. For bigger kids, a product called GoodNites offers disposable bedtime pants for kids who weigh up to 125 pounds, which is roughly 57 kilograms. Pull-Ups or GoodNites are best for heavy wetters and kids who wet every night.
GoodNites also makes disposable absorbent mats, which are placed on a fitted sheet. They have adhesive tabs to keep the mat in place during sleep. GoodNites Bed Mats are good as a ‘backup’ for kids who wet rarely, or for those who sometimes leak out of nighttime pants. Another product by GoodNites is Tru-Fit Underwear. Tru-Fits have a pocket inside, and then you place a disposable pad inside the pocket to catch the urine. The pad gets thrown away and the underwear can be machine-washed. These work for kids who rarely wet the bed or who don’t flood the bed when they do wet. There are many equivalent generic products on the market, as well. With any of these products, try them at home before camp to figure out what works best for your child.
Get your doctor’s advice. There are medications that can help children stay dry. If your child’s doctor recommends trying medication for bedwetting, do a trial run at home before camp to ensure the medication works for your child.
Call ahead. Call the camp ahead of your child’s session to discuss and ask about procedures the camp may already have in place regarding bedwetting. You will most likely find that camps are well-prepared for bedwetting. If the camp doesn’t have a plan, create one together.
“Camp staff are really well-trained, not only in keeping kids safe, but in building self-esteem,” says Alex, an assistant camp director. “All it takes is one direct phone call to the camp director. They will either already have a plan in place [for bedwetting] or you can make a plan together.”
Choose the right pajamas. Choose sleepwear wisely so that the bulk of disposable bedtime pants aren’t visible under your child’s clothing. To cover their bum area, pair loose sweat or pajama pants with an oversized shirt that hangs low.
Pack plenty. Just in case the camp isn’t able to launder clothing for the campers, pack extra pajama pants. While discussing laundry with the camp director or other camp staff - ahead of time, of course - ask if your child’s sleeping bag can be washed, if necessary. Some camps will do this for you.
Also, ask the camp about sending an extra sleeping bag to camp with your child. The extra sleeping bag can be placed on the bunk while the wet bag is in the wash, so other kids won’t notice your kiddo’s sleeping bag missing from their bed (just ensure both sleeping bags are identical).
Also, consider packing wet wipes for your child to clean up with after taking off their pull-up in the morning.
Get your kid on board
Discuss the bedwetting plan with your child and make sure they are comfortable with the plan. It is also important to reiterate to your kid that they are not the only child with this condition and that camp staff will always be there to help them.
At camp drop-off
Even if you have made a plan with the camp director, it is a good idea to speak with the counselor who will be in charge of your kid. Pull them aside for a quick private conversation to make sure they are aware of the situation, just in case. This is also a good time to show your little camper which staff are available if they need help.
Teach your child how to change in and out of pull-ups with ninja-like stealth. After all, no kid wants their whole cabin to know they are wearing bedwetting garments!
There are plenty of ways your child can do this in private:
Have them change in the bathroom. At bedtime, have your child go into a stall and put on the disposable pants under their pajamas. In the morning, have them change in the stall again. You can even pack plastic bags for your child to wrap the disposable pants in before tossing in the garbage, so that other kids at camp don’t see the soaked pants in the trash can.
Some counselors will wake your child up a few minutes earlier than the rest of their cabin, so the child can get to the bathroom first and clean up, unobserved.
Hide disposable underpants inside their sleeping bag. You can easily fit a week’s worth of disposables in the foot of a sleeping bag! After your child climbs into their sleeping bag at bedtime, they can shimmy into the disposable underwear inside the bag so no one is the wiser. In the morning, they can take off the disposables in the same way, leaving it inside the bag for a counselor to dispose of later when no one is in the cabin.
If your child is a heavy wetter who often leaks out of a pull-up, or wets very rarely, try disposable bed mats. Before camp, adhere the mat inside the sleeping bag, then roll up as usual for bringing to camp. Pack extras in case they need replacing, and make sure you have a plan for your child and/or the counselor to discretely take away the wet mat and replace it with a new one.
Tiffany is a freelance writer and the mother of three children, including one who has peanut and tree nut allergies. Read more of her writing at TDGuerzon.com.
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