What to do if your child suffers from separation anxiety

By Drum Digital
27 May 2014

Divorce or parents who live separate lives could be a major cause of separation anxiety in children. We give a concerned grandmother expert advice on how to help her granddaughter.

A Super(grand)Mom in our Facebook community asked our advice on helping her four-year-old granddaughter who is suddenly behaving very differently at school. The tot’s parents are not living together and our expert suspects separation anxiety is play a role in her behaviour.

“My granddaughter suddenly started soiling herself and sucking her thumb at nursery school. This happened at home too, but she says she doesn’t want to go to the toilet,” writes the gran. She adds her granddaughter takes turns to stay with the divorced parents – one week and weekend with her mother, and one week and weekend with her father.

“Her mother was recently away for two weeks – could she have behaved this way because of her absence, and is it a healthy situation for the child to stay with a different parent every second week?”

CP de Jager is a guidance and educational psychologist in Vanderbijlpark and he says the little girl sounds like a typical victim of such a split living situation. “She has separation anxiety, and the fact her mother was away for two weeks apparently made it worse. We call this condition encopresis – the technical term for children who soil themselves as a result of separation anxiety. It’s common in children in these situations.”

De Jager advises all family members give her lots of love and attention and don’t scold her when she soils herself or sucks her thumb.

“Be diplomatic with the child, because she’s a victim of this situation. It’s difficult to say whether it’s healthy or unhealthy for the child to spend one week with the mother and the next with the father, but the most important thing is that the mother and father act responsibly to prevent future problems.”

The little girl’s nursery school has now also arranged for her to see an occupational therapist to help solve the problem.

-Dalena Theron

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