Reasons For The Stigma Surrounding Diaper Use in Older Bed-Wetters – Part 2

A second reason for peoples negative feelings toward older children still being in diapers could be the fact that parents used to use cloth diapers and rubber pants for their babies. This meant lots of work for parents especially before the advent of washing machines. In this circumstance parents felt compelled to get their children out of diapers as soon as possible. If an older child had to wear diapers to bed for bed-wetting the parents might have been upset about the prospect of having to spend years washing diapers and rubber pants. Subsequently many parents used the shaming approach to try to get them out of diapers.

Over the years we’ve become more enlightened about this issue(although we still have a long way to go in my opinion) and most people realize that this approach doesn’t work and in many cases can make the situation worse. That being said the people who had the bed-wetting problem when they were younger remember their parents using this approach with them and they might use this technique with their children also.

A third reason for our negative attitudes regarding this stems from our attitudes toward various milestones in a person’s life. Most cultures have certain expectations of when we’re supposed to achieve certain things-we’re supposed to get a driver’s license by a certain age(I know a woman who is 24 who still does not have a driver’s license),we’re supposed to graduate from high school by a certain age,etc. Nowhere are our cultural expectations more deep-seated than with bed-wetting and diaper use and if a person needs diapers past the age that is considered socially acceptable by most people we instill in them the idea that they should feel ashamed.

To get back to parental attitudes toward diaper use I wonder if one of the reasons most parents are so adamant about getting their child or teenager out of night diapers is that a part of them feels ashamed about it. It’s a very competitive world out there and every flaw a child might have is looked at as something that must be hidden or fixed at all costs. The prevailing attitude among many parents is that their kids must be perfect at everything because any sign of imperfection is viewed by society as a sign of weakness. There is immense pressure for parents to make sure their children go to the best schools,to participate in numerous after school activities because it looks good on their records,play sports,etc. Imagine if it got out that 18 year old Susan is still in diapers and plastic pants at night? So much for going to Harvard!

Parents are also competitive with one another and unfortunately some hyper competitive parents use their children as pawns either consciously or subconsciously in this competition. They feel that any flaw the kids might have is a reflection on their parenting skills and might make them look bad. “What would our friends and neighbors think if they found out our 15 year old son still wears diapers and plastic pants at night? How embarrassing!” We need to grow up! Everybody has some flaws-that’s what makes us human! The only thing we can do is accentuate our strengths and do the best we can to work on our flaws and try to improve ourselves but we shouldn’t obsess about our weaknesses.

A fourth reason for our negative feelings concerning using diapers to manage bed-wetting has to do with our emphasis on self-image. Although this is a universal concept this concept is especially important in the U.S. Most of our ideas of self-image unfortunately tend to be rather superficial. We’re very concerned with status,power,image,and success and these four things are inextricably linked in many people’s minds with having a strong self-image. A large number of people believe that wearing diapers represents the opposite of all four of the qualities in which people feel a strong self-image consists of .In particular a significant number of people believe wearing diapers represents a feeling of being powerless,no doubt due to the fact that most people associate diapers with babies. Many people of course view babies as the paragon of powerlessness. Because of this view a large number of people develop a negative self-image if they have to use diapers for bed-wetting.

A fifth reason is that some people believe that by putting the child in diapers for bed-wetting you in essence “are giving them permission to wet the bed” or that “it’s okay to wet the bed.” Believe it or not I’ve heard some people say this and I think it’s one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard. Since the purpose of having the child or teenager wear diapers at night is to keep the bed dry I think it sends the opposite message-that it’s not okay to wet the bed. In no way can putting a child or teenager in a diaper for a problem they can’t control be construed as “it’s okay to wet the bed.” I think it sends the message that the parents are going to make their children as comfortable as possible until a cure is found. Or if the treatment options currently available don’t work or are not viable for some reason, they’re going to have them wear diapers because it’s more healthy for the child and it makes them more comfortable.

Diapers should not be the first option used for bed-wetting, but by the same token they should be used if all alternatives have been exhausted or are not desirable or feasible. To me diapers should be viewed no differently than sanitary napkins for women.

A sixth reason why most people are so against older bed wetters remaining in diapers at night is group think. People in general want to conform and with that tendency comes the fact that people go along with the prevailing wisdom without questioning its validity. They internalize it and it becomes so ingrained in their thinking that they can’t imagine anything else. We’re like fish in water-it becomes so much a part of their life and environment that they don’t even notice it. The fact that the majority believe in something is no guarantee that it’s right. History shows that in many cases it is the minority or a sole visionary who is right and the majority wrong.

Finally we tend to put too much credence in what experts say without questioning its validity. I ‘m not suggesting that we shouldn’t listen to anything the experts say but we should keep the following points in mind: experts frequently have conflicting opinions which could mean either that they in fact have opposite opinions on certain issues or that the issue is complex and they need to undertake more research in order to make a definitive conclusion or come to a consensus.

Second, there have been many situations where the experts were later shown to be wrong. Childcare is no exception. For example it was originally thought that playing Mozart would have a positive effect on an unborn child’s brain development. This theory known as the “Mozart Effect” was later shown to be false(who knows-after further research and an improved understanding of cognition they might change their minds again-this has also happened with certain things) With this in mind it’s conceivable that our current opinions about using diapers to manage bed-wetting are wrong also( I strongly believe that this is the case and that our thinking on this issue is completely misguided) although with how entrenched our attitudes our regarding this issue it might take a generation or more to overcome this inertia and reconsider our current attitudes concerning this situation.

A seventh reason why most parents use pull-ups or “Goodnites” instead of diapers for their youngster’s bed-wetting may be that they’re not aware of the different brands and types of products out there to manage bed-wetting. As mentioned previously there are many choices available to manage one’s bed-wetting. Also some styles might not be used as much because of generational differences. For example,although some younger parents use pin-on diapers and plastic pants for their babies, most younger parents are probably not familiar with pin-on diapers and plastic pants since they’re not as popular as they once were. The parents who do use pin-on cloth diapers and plastic pants for their babies might continue to use them if their child or children who wet the bed since the parents are familiar with them but parents who don’t use them or are not familiar with them might not use them unless their friends,relatives,or other people recommend them. Second,even if parents are aware of the different choices out there to manage their child or teenager’s bed-wetting it’s very time consuming sorting through all this information in order to make an informed decision about the best type of product to buy. There’s a bewildering array of products out there to deal with bed-wetting and it can be quite daunting learning about all the different products out there.

That’s where the role of medical professionals comes in to play. I think urologists, pediatricians,and other medical professionals should have some basic knowledge of the different types of diapers available to manage bed-wetting and the advantages and disadvantages of each. While they obviously can’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of this they can apprise their patients of the basic styles of cloth diapers such as as pin-on diapers,pull-ons,snap-ons,and Velcro; and disposable diapers such as tape-on diapers and pull-ons.

They can also inform them about the different types of waterproof pants such as plastic pants and the different types of waterproof sheets. If possible they should also have a list of several companies that sell both kinds of diapers and a list of websites(such as bed-wetting forums, incontinence organizations,and other resources) .These organizations can provide further information not listed in the physicians office such as additional companies that manufacture and sell incontinence products,information about bed-wetting support groups,etc.

I was reading that in the U.S. and other countries they have wound,ostomy,and continence nurses. From what I understand wound,ostomy,and continence nurses(abbreviated wocn nurses)perform the following functions: they inform patients of the different types and brands of products available to manage incontinence;the different ways some products may effect the skin such as causing diaper rash and/or other problems; what types and brands of skincare products to use if this is the case- Desitin,A&D ointment,powder,petroleum jelly such as the Vaseline brand,lotions,etc.;the pros and cons of different absorbent products;in addition to the different companies that sell incontinence products in order to help guide the patient in making a decision about what type of products to purchase based on their current needs.

I think this is a good thing that we have these types of specialists-after all it’s very time consuming trying to find out this information on your own whereas a nurse or other medical professional specializing in bed-wetting and other incontinence issues can find the information more rapidly and efficiently due to the resources they have at their disposal. It’s my belief that if more people become aware of the different diapering methods out there to manage bed-wetting more people might use these products thereby decreasing the stigma associated with older children,teenagers,adolescents,and adults wearing overnight diapers. The medical community can play a big role in the reduction of this stigma by informing both parents and patients of these options.

A second way to reduce the stigma associated with using diapers to manage bed-wetting in older children,adolescents,teenagers,and adults is to have talk show hosts discuss this on their shows. I think this would be a perfect topic to discuss on Oprah. Due to the nature and depth of the material she could make it a two or more part series on her show. She could invite experts on bed-wetting to discuss what it is,the age groups effected,adult bed-wetting,different cures and treatments for it and the advantages and disadvantages of each,the best ways to cope psychologically if it can’t be cured,and the different types of protection to manage bed-wetting.

As far as protection is concerned the experts would discuss the different diapering options available to manage bed-wetting and the advantage and disadvantages of each. Some of the options discussed on this segment would be cloth diapers such as pin-on,pull-on,and other types, disposable diapers such as tape-on and pull-on,the various types of waterproof pants such as plastic pants,and the various types of waterproof sheets. I think it’s important to mention all these options for two reasons. One, it’ll make parents aware of options to manage their youngter’s bed-wetting they might not have known about or if they did know about them they might not have considered them before. Two,by doing this more people might consider using these different types of garments thereby decreasing the stigma surrounding them.

Oprah has a lot of clout and influence and I believe that people such as her(and other celebrities) could help lessen the negative image of bed-wetting and diaper use. I guarantee after this episode of Oprah diapers would sell like hot cakes- department stores such as Walmart and Target and food stores such as Giant couldn’t keep them on the shelf .By both doctors and celebrities recommending diapers this might have a snowball effect. For instance someone who uses diapers for their bed wetter because doctors or celebrities recommended them might in turn recommend using diapers to their friend/friends who have children with bed-wetting problems thereby increasing the number of people who use diapers to manage bed-wetting. The subsequent increase in the number of people using diapers to manage bed-wetting will do more to decrease the stigma associated with using diapers for bed-wetting.

We as a society have matured as far as many medical issues are concerned. For example there is less stigma surrounding mental illness and other medical problems,but unfortunately bed-wetting and the use of diapers to manage it is an issue that remains taboo. We are very stubborn regarding this issue. Most people for a variety of reasons do not want to budge regarding this issue. I suspect that in the future we will loosen up about this issue to a certain extent,but I also think there will always be people who view this in a negative light no matter how persuasively we argue the merits of wearing diapers for bed-wetting.

One of the major reasons for the stigma of diaper use in older bed wetters has to do with our thoughts and feelings on the issue of dignity. Many older children,adolescents,and teenagers feel undignified about wearing diapers to bed. To a large extent our concept of dignity is shaped either consciously or subconsciously by people we admire such as sports figures,entertainers,and heroes. We have this idealized image of them and we tend to extrapolate that image to all aspects of their personal lives. Because of this perfect image we have of them we couldn’t imagine them having a problem like bed-wetting. Of course we must remember that these individuals are human also and are subject to the various health problems that everyone else has. In fact many famous stars such as Suzanne Sommers, Johnny Carson,and Michael Landon(to name a few) experienced bed-wetting when they were growing up.

I also feel that are ideas about dignity go hand in hand to a large degree with our feelings about independence-being able to take care of yourself and run your own life. As mentioned earlier diapers represent to many people a return(at least symbolically) to a state when their parents took care of them which is a blow to a child or teenager’s ego. Adults who have to wear diapers to bed also feel this shame. Many people find it very difficult to get past this feeling of shame and unfortunately some people can never get past it. Although most people find it undignified wearing diapers and plastic pants for bed-wetting,personally I think it would make a person feel more undignified laying all night in pee soaked bedding and pajamas!

Dignity also relates to a feeling of control which in turn relates to are sense of self-esteem and how self-confident we feel about ourselves. When we are self-confident we have a feeling that we are in control of our lives and that in turn makes us feel more dignified. Again by wearing diapers to bed we feel a lack of control which in turn makes us feel less self-confident. This in turn erodes our feeling of dignity. This is the case with many other medical problems as well. For example a person who has to wear a cast for a broken leg or a person who has to take insulin shots for diabetes might feel either consciously or subconsciously that he or she doesn’t have control. The cast or needle represents the feeling of a lack of control. The same is true for wearing diapers and plastic pants to bed. Of course every person is different in the degree in which they have these feelings and their ability to overcome these feelings.

One thing that we must realize however is that we should not be defined by our illness. The fact that a person has to wear diapers to bed is only a part of who that person is. A person’s dignity should be measured by the fortitude they exhibit in dealing with life’s adversities and how well they treat other people. If a person has to wear diapers to bed and they deal with it with a sense of grace and humor then the fact that he or she needs diapers at night should not detract one iota from their dignity.

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