How to Encourage Older Children and Teenagers to Wear Diapers for Bedwetting

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28-09-2016, 08:25
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Bedwetting (nocturnal enuresis) is a common condition that affects people of all ages. For some, a possible solution is to wear diapers at night. Many older children and teenagers that wet the bed will strongly resist wearing diapers. Some of them feel that their parents are treating them like babies. Parents in these situations find it quite a struggle to convince them to wear protection. There are several steps you can take to encourage and motivate an older child or teenager who might feel embarrassed about wearing diapers to manage their bedwetting.

Communicating Effectively

  1. Explain your decision. As the parent, you know that you are in charge. But as your child gets older, he will be much more interested in knowing why certain choices are made on his behalf. Take some time to talk to your child about why you are making the choice to put him in diapers.
    • Use terms that your child can understand. If you need to explain your decision in terms of a medical condition, find ways to make it relatable to your child. For example, you could say, "You know how you have trouble going to the bathroom before bed? These diapers are one of the things we're going to try to address this issue."
    • Point out to the youngster that it's important to get a full night's rest at their age, and that wearing protection to bed will allow them to do that because they won't have to get up in the middle of the night to change sheets.
  2. Emphasize that you are making this choice for your child's benefit, not as a punishment. Consider saying something like, "I know that you don't want to wear diapers, but I'm concerned that the bedwetting is really interfering with your sleep. That's why I've decided to try the diaper solution for a while. Let's see how it goes."
    • Let them know that people of all ages (including many adults) wet the bed and that some of these people have to wear diapers their entire life. While it'd be best for you all if you can deal with the bedwetting behavior itself, rather than just addressing the symptoms, there are some cases where ongoing use of diapers is appropriate. Reassure them that, even if that's the case, it'll be okay. Diapers are the most effective garments to manage heavy incontinence such as bed wetting and will provide comfort and hygiene.
  3. Explain the medical concerns at an age-appropriate level. This step is only applicable with teenagers who are able to understand them. Point out that, in addition to being uncomfortable lying in wet sheets, there's the potential to develop skin problems if they don't wear protection.
    • Another risk associated with incontinence is bacterial growth and infection. Incontinence allows the skin's surface to come in contact with bacteria from waste products.
    • One of the caustic agents contained in urine is ammonia. Ammonia increases the pH of the skin causing irritation. Ammonia is also used by bacteria as a source of nutrition, contributing to the reproduction of more micro-organisms.
    • The damp, warm skin environment generally associated with incontinence is ideal for the proliferation of pathogenic fungi.
  4. Listen to his concerns. If your child is old enough to be resistant to wearing diapers, than he likely has some good reasons. Maybe he is feeling ashamed or embarrassed. Or maybe the diapers are physically uncomfortable. Whatever the issue, make sure that you treat it as a valid concern.
    • One great way to demonstrate that you are hearing his concerns is to use paraphrasing. For instance, you might say, "I hear you saying that you are concerned your older brother will make fun of you for wearing diapers."
    • Follow up with questions. Try saying, "What could we do to make you feel better about the situation?"
  5. Acknowledge his feelings. When you are discussing wearing diapers with your child, he is likely to be experiencing several different emotions. It's very common to feel frustration, anger, and embarrassment in this situation. Listen carefully to your child, and make sure he knows that you are empathetic.
    • If he feels embarrassment, try reassuring him that this is a very common problem. Reassure him that his emotions are valid and understandable. Say something such as, "I understand how you feel. I've felt embarrassed at times in my life, too."
    • It's important to let the youngster know that you're not putting them in diapers to punish or humiliate them.
    • Stress to the child or teenager that they only have to wear the diapers at night, and that the only people who know that they're wearing diapers are their family.
  6. Be supportive. There are several ways that you can demonstrate support through your words. Try making the conversation problem-oriented instead of person-oriented. This will help you address the issue without putting your child on the defensive.
    • An example of a person-oriented statement is "You have been wetting the bed too much." This can make your child feel like he is somehow at fault. Instead, try a problem-oriented statement such as, "Bedwetting can be very uncomfortable for people who deal with it." This supports your child be making it clear the problem is not on his shoulders alone.
    • Offer supportive statements such as "It's great that you're willing to discuss this issue with me. I really appreciate that you're such a mature, honest kid."

Making a Plan

  1. Find the cause. Bedwetting is a problem if your child has previously been able to stay dry and has now regressed. Many experts agree that it is also considered a problem if your child is over the age of five and if the issue occurs more than twice a week. Your first step to finding a solution is to find the cause. Make an appointment with your child's doctor to discuss the problem.
    • There are many common physical issues that can cause bedwetting. One of the most common is called delayed bladder maturation, in which your child's bladder as not developed as quickly as the rest of his body.
    • Your child might also suffer from having a low amount of anti-duretic hormone (ADH). This hormone prevents the body from producing urine. Studies show that children who have low levels of this hormone often wet the bed.
    • Ask your doctor to run some tests to determine the cause of the problem. Make sure that she clearly understands your concerns.
  2. Explore alternatives. If the lab results do not indicate a physical cause for the bedwetting, you may want to consider an emotional cause. Doctors say that if your child has previously gone six months or more without wetting the bed, the problem might be stress or anxiety. Start exploring underlying causes if you think your child is suffering from stress or anxiety.
    • Consider whether your child has been through any major life changes recently. For example, as there been a move? A death in the family? A divorce? Any of these things could very likely cause stress or anxiety.
    • Try having some in-depth conversations with your child. You can ask some questions to let you try to determine if there are any issues that you are unaware of. Try saying something like, "How's school going? I haven't heard you talk much about how you're liking your teachers lately." Then you can use the information to try to figure out if your child is having some sort of emotional problem.
  3. Consider treatment options. Once you have figured out what is causing the bedwetting, you can begin to explore different treatment options. If the diagnosis is that there is a physical cause, there are many treatments that your doctor can suggest. Ask him to thoroughly explain options to you.
    • Medication might be an option for your child. There are several drugs available to treat the underlying causes of bedwetting. Two of the most common are Desmopressin Acetate (DDAVP) and Imipramine. Ask your doctor if these are right for your child.
    • If the causes are psychological, you might consider taking your child to a counselor. A mental health specialist can help your child deal with anxiety and depression.
  4. Consider implementing a reward system designed to encourage the youngster to wear diapers at night. If your doctor agrees that diapers are the best solution, considering using a short-term rewards system to encourage the child to follow through. At the outset, let the child or teenager know that this is a temporary solution, just for use as they become accustomed to the diapers.
    • Consider saying something like this: “We know you feel a little embarrassed about this and we get how you feel, but we thought of an idea to make this fun. We're going to implement a reward system. By fulfilling your part of the deal, you'll not only earn a reward, but at the same time you'll be helping yourself."
    • Have the child or teenager pick three things they really like. For instance, they might like video games, books, and toys, in that order. If they wear the diapers to bed 20-24 nights in a row, they would get a toy; if they wear them for 25-29 nights in a row they would get a book; and if they wore them to bed the whole month they would get a video game. The purpose of setting up the reward system along these lines is to gradually ease them into or get them comfortable with wearing the diapers.
    • Verbal encouragement is also an important part of the system. Offer praise, encouragement, and reassurance in the face of any setbacks. If the child is old enough, focus on the real end goal, rather than the temporary rewards: their long-term health, comfort, and hygiene. Say something like, "We're really proud of you for being understanding enough to wear them. We know it's no fun but just keep in mind that people of all ages wear diapers for bedwetting, and it's much more comfortable wearing them rather then waking up in yucky wet Pjs and bedding, right?"
  5. Teach the child how to diaper themselves. If they're able to, it's important they take care of their own hygiene, safely and independently at an age-appropriate level. A child should be taught how to do this at a young age so they don't feel embarrassed or ashamed about wearing the diapers. Unless the youngster has some cognitive and/or physical disability that prevents or makes it difficult for them to diaper themselves, he or she should be responsible for putting on and changing their own diapers.

Getting Help

  1. Talk to someone. Your child's bedwetting is likely a very frustrating situation for both you and him. You might find that you need some help in finding good ways to deal with the situation. If you're having trouble encouraging your child to wear a diaper, maybe there is someone who can help you have that difficult conversation.
    • Is there a family member that your child has a great relationship with? If he's close to an aunt or uncle or cousin, try recruiting that person to help you have the conversation.
    • Talk to your friends and family members who have children. If they have experience with this type of situation, they can probably offer you some very helpful personal advice.
  2. Consider online incontinence support groups. They can be a good source to talk to people about various topics related to incontinence, from how to adjust to wearing bedwetting diapers to how to choose between different brands. Suggest to the youngster that they talk to people in a support group and ask them how they cope with wearing protection. If they're younger it would be a good idea to supervise them while online.
  3. Consult your doctor. Your doctor can be a great resource for you in this type of situation. Not only can he help you figure out the physical causes, but he can offer advice on how to talk about the problem with your child. Remember, your doctor has likely seen this situation before and can offer some great insight.
    • Prepare for your visit to the doctor. Make a list of questions that you would like to have answered and check them off during your conversation. This will help you to remember all of the things you want to ask.
  4. Find a support system. Remember to be kind to yourself. You're going through a difficult situation, too. Try to surround yourself with people who have a positive effect on your life and can offer you support.
    • Try talking to a close friend who you trust. Explain that you are going through a difficult issue with your child and that you need someone to talk to. Having a listening ear can really help ease the stress of the situation.


  • If you use pin-on cloth diapers for your bedwetting child or teenager you must cover the diapers with waterproof pants (plastic pants).
  • Some people use both disposable briefs and pin-on cloth diapers to manage their bedwetting. For example: Pin-on diapers and plastic pants can be uncomfortable to wear during the warmer times of the year such as spring and summer and switching to disposable diapers at that time is a good idea.
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