Bedwetting and Summer Camp
An estimated five to seven million children in the United States wet their beds, according to the National Kidney Foundation. And many of them successfully make the trip to overnight camp every year.
The behavior is so common that most camps think nothing of it and are prepared to handle it as discreetly as possible. "Each year during each session we always have kids that wet the bed," says Greg Huff, summer camp program director for the Flatrock River YMCA Summer Camp in St. Paul, Ind. "Homesickness and bedwetting are things that all camps deal with."
Bedwetting is a frequent behavior in children after they are toilet trained, but oftentimes children continue to wet the bed after the age of 6 or 7. This happens for a variety of reasons, and the National Kidney Foundation recommends that you talk with your pediatrician if it continues. Some children don't wake up when their bladder is full, some produce more urine while sleeping than others and some children's bladders simply do not hold as much urine. Occasionally, stress such as a new baby in the family or a new school also can cause bedwetting.
If you want to send your child to overnight camp, Dr. Gregory Dean, director of pediatric urology at Temple Children's Medical Center, recommends you begin preparing several months in advance. "I would recommend that parents address the issue of bedwetting in the months before camp season," he says.
He suggests trying to eliminate the problem before kids head off to camp. First, he says to try limiting the amount of liquid your child drinks at night and encouraging them to use the bathroom before bedtime.
If your child continues to wet the bed there are other options that may help, such as a moisture alarm. The alarm sounds as soon as it detects the first bit of moisture, helping your child learn to feel when his bladder is full and when he is about to wet the bed. The National Kidney Foundation says moisture alarms have the highest long-term success rate.
Huff suggests that you talk with your child about camp before he heads off. "What concerns do they have going into this?" he says. You can allay any fears such as spiders or the dark, which may exacerbate the problem because they're afraid to walk to the bathroom.
To make your child's camp experience as successful as possible, most camp directors prefer that you let them know about bedwetters ahead of time. "If the staff are armed and know about it ahead of time, they can be more proactive in helping," Huff says. He suggests including it on the camper information form that you fill out before camp or discreetly handing your child's counselor a note when you drop him off. He also asks that you include any instructions that may help such as limiting fluid intake before bed. Some camps ask that you send disposable absorbent undergarments to wear at night.
At most camps, bedwetting is no big deal and they will make every attempt to avoid embarrassing your child. "We always try to encourage the kids that we will deal with it quietly," Huff says.
At his camp, the staff encourages the children to tell them when they've had an accident. The counselors then remove the bedding when the kids are at an activity and replace it with clean bedding. They will often place children who wet the beds closer to the door so they can wake them up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom less noticeably and so they can remove the bedding more easily, if needed.
If any questions come up about why someone has a "new" sleeping bag, counselors explain that it had a jammed zipper or some other problem and is out to be fixed.
But sometimes the inevitable happens and other children find out. In that case, Huff says they explain that everyone has wet the bed at some time in their life, even as a baby. Two of the core values of their camp are respect and caring, so teasing is never accepted.
"It's just one more thing that can be turned into a life lesson that kids can take away from camp," he says.