Kids at Camp: Supporting good ‘potty habits’ when routines change

During the school year, your child may have mastered a routine that encouraged good “potty habits,” reducing or eliminating issues with daytime wetting. But what happens when routines are broken – when school’s out for summer and your child’s signed up for day programs and/or youth camps?

According to Judy Abel, owner and physical therapist at Pelvic Wellness Center (Eugene & Salem), a sudden break in routine can sometimes cause the reappearance of incontinence issues in a child who’s dealt with them before.

“When routines change in the everyday life of a child, so can good habits that support and control proper bladder and bowel functions,” Abel said. “It’s important that parents do what they can during the summer to maintain routines in diet and potty habits both when the child’s at home and when they’re off to camp.”

At Pelvic Wellness Center, Abel and Shannon Forrestall, MSPT, created their own physical therapy program geared toward helping children overcome “accidents” in their lives – children between the ages of 5 and 10 whose social development, self-esteem and overall health are often at stake. Studies show that 20 percent of all pediatric visits are incontinence related, and an estimated 5 million children deal with nocturnal enuresis, also known as bedwetting.

Summer can therefore present challenges to these children, especially when away at day or overnight camps. Abel and Forrestall, therefore, offer the following suggestions to help parents support positive “potty habits” during such excursions:

• Pack Water Bottles: Remaining hydrated is essential in maintaining a healthy bladder, so send your kids to camp with their own water bottles. “When you don’t drink enough water, your urine gets dark and becomes concentrated, and that irritates the bladder,” Forrestall said. “When your child’s bladder is irritated, he or she will want to go more often, which could lead to accidents.”

• Remember Diet: If you pack snacks for your child, go for the high-fiber options – dried fruits, granola bars and high-fiber vegetables such as carrots. “Constipation can cause a child’s bladder sensations to become inhibited over time, which can lead to bladder leakage,” Abel said.

• Communicate With Counselors: Once registered for camp, talk to a counselor about any special needs or considerations your child may require. Talk about diet and hydration, schedule considerations, privacy needs and medication, if necessary.

• Pack “Just In Case”: Sometimes accidents just happen, so it doesn’t hurt to make sure your child’s prepared. If he or she is used to wearing Pull-Ups at night, send some along. Also, pack clothes of similar colors and styles so that, if an accident happens, a change of clothes (or PJs) will be less noticeable to others around them. Perhaps even arrange with the counselor to have extra sheets available in case nighttime wetting occurs.

“Your child is going to camp to have a positive experience both socially and developmentally, despite the potential for accidents,” Forrestall said. “So certainly expect the best, but make sure they’re prepared – just in case.”