Sleepaway 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 experience.
Bed-wetting beyond the average age of toilet training is called nocturnal enuresis. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 3% of boys and 2% of girls are still wetting at night by age 10. Some kids won’t be dry at night until they are into their teens. The good news is that with some planning and preparation, kids who wet the bed can enjoy sleepaway camp just like their peers.
Read on for tips for preparing camp staff and your child for 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. 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 the fitted sheet. These have adhesive tabs to keep the mat in place during sleep. GoodNites Bed Mats are good as a backup for kids who wet only rarely, or for those who sometimes leak out of nighttime pants. Another product by GoodNites is Tru-Fit underwear. These are cloth underwear that have a pocket inside. 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 wet rarely and don’t flood the bed when they do wet. Although the above products are listed by brand name, 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 a doctor’s advice
There are medications that can help children stay dry. If your child’s doctor recommends trying medication, do a trial run at home before camp to make sure it works – it doesn’t work for all kids.
Call the camp ahead of your child’s session to discuss the problem and to ask about procedures the camp may already have in place. You will most likely find that camps are well prepared for bed-wetting. 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, Assistant Camp Director for a Washington State camp. “All it takes is one direct phone call to the camp director. They will either already have a plan in place [for bed-wetting] 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 the clothing. Pair loose sweat or pajama pants with an oversized shirt that hangs low, to cover the bottom area.
Pack extra pj pants, in case the camp isn’t able to launder clothing for campers. While discussing laundry, ask if the sleeping bag can be washed if necessary. Some camps will do this for you. Ask about sending an extra sleeping bag. This 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 his bed.
Consider packing a package of wet wipes for your child to clean up with after taking off the pull-up in the morning.
Get your kid on board
Discuss the plan with your child and make sure they are comfortable. Reiterate that they are not the only kid with this condition and that camp staff is there to help.
AT DROP OFF
Even if you have made a plan with the camp director, it is a good idea to directly 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 camper which staff are available if they need help.
- Talk with your child about strategies. No kid wants their whole cabin to know they are wearing bed wettinggarments! There are plenty of ways to keep this private.
- Change in the bathroom. At bedtime, go into a stall and put on the disposable pants under PJ’s. In the morning, change in the stall again. You could even pack plastic bags for the child to wrap the disposable pants in before tossing in the garbage, so that kids 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 the sleeping bag. You can easily fit a week’s worth in the foot of a sleeping bag! After the 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, take it off in the same way, leaving it inside the bag for a counselor to dispose of later.
- 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 or the counselor to take away the wet mat and replace it with a new one.