How JustAnswer Works:

  • Ask an Expert
    Experts are full of valuable knowledge and are ready to help with any question. Credentials confirmed by a Fortune 500 verification firm.
  • Get a Professional Answer
    Via email, text message, or notification as you wait on our site.
    Ask follow up questions if you need to.
  • 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
    Rate the answer you receive.

Ask Dr. Mark Your Own Question

Dr. Mark
Dr. Mark, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5110
Experience:  Dr. Mark is a PhD in psychology in private practice
50444359
Type Your Mental Health Question Here...
Dr. Mark is online now
A new question is answered every 9 seconds

Hello, I have a 5 year old child. I was told OKMH829100

Resolved Question:

Hello, I have a 5 year old child. I was told that he had separation anxiety disorder when he was about 3 years old. At that time I was going through a very stressful divorce. He became very depressed. He started stuttering. He also started sleep walking and wetting the bed (he was completely potty trained at age 2). It took over a year to get over the depression. About 6 months to stop the sleep walking and bed wetting. And Almost 2 years to stop the stuttering (he still stutters when he becomes stressed about something). We never really dealt with the separation anxiety because we just always stayed together. He recently started school. He never went to preschool and he just started KG. He is very stressed about going to school. From the moment he wakes up he cries. He cries the entire car ride to school which is about 20 mins. When we arrive he cries all day at school. Yesterday the school had to call because he cried so long. When I pick him up he cries about the next day. He literally cries all day at home. We he sleeps he has nightmares. He wont eat, I have to force him to take a few bites. He has started having nightmares are crying in his sleep. When he is not crying he is praying that he dont go to school. He told me today that he wants to go to heaven instead of school. He has headaches and stomach aches which I am sure comes from crying all day. He is always nausea. I have tried dropping him and leaving. I have tried just leaving him. I have tried volunteering at the school for a few hours each day. Nothing helps. Everyone in the Mental health field that i have spoken to wont see a child his age for this and many has told me that they wont even treat him until age 12. There is the option of homeschooling, which I have done with my other children in the past. there is also a half day program at the school. There is also a waive that I can get from the state for delayed KG start and he will have to start at age 6 instead of 5. What should I do at this point?

Submitted: 12 months ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 12 months ago.

Hi! I'll be glad to help you with this issue.

I can imagine how frustrating this situation must be for you. You are clearly a loving and caring mother and you recognize the deeply traumatic effects of the divorce on your son. You've done an amazing job in shepherding him through all the various signs of distress that he exhibited. It must have been a harrowing experience for you but you have been truly loyal and loving to your son. He's very fortunate to have you.

I'm surprised by this idea you've been told, both that he's not the right age to be treated for being treated for separation anxiety. This is not accurate; I say this both from my training and experience. I am very concerned that you have been steered away from finding a child therapist to work with him when this would be so helpful to you and beneficial for him. I can only give you two directories to look through to see if there's someone in your area who qualifies, which I'll put at the end of my answer. But I want to make sure you don't feel abandoned by the psychotherapy community; there are even journals on working with children his age and younger!

Now on to the techniques to use: you're looking for behavior modification techniques. You can look that up if you like. It's so well documented today that you for sure won't get many strange results on the Google websites.

The first thing is very sweet. It will get you in the spirit of behavior modification. I want you to have a handkerchief that gets put in his coat pocket, pant pocket, or lunch when you take him to preschool. The handkerchief is something you and he will cuddle with when he's on your lap or next to you on the couch at home. You'll use it in story time about a boy who's so sad when his mother has to leave in the morning and he has to stay in the school she took him to. But he has this handkerchief his mom left with him to remind him she will always be back at the right time to pick him up and give him a big smile and kiss and go home happy again. And you kiss the handkerchief and he kisses it and you hug it and he hugs it. Etc. Get the idea? This handkerchief IS your love for him. And you do this every night for a while. And it goes into his pocket. Keep repeating this until it's a ritual. Then when you get to school he takes it out and you kiss it goodbye and he kisses it, then it goes back in his pocket. And then you kiss him goodbye and then you leave. And after a few nights you discuss with him if maybe the pretend boy would like his teacher to hold on to the handkerchief in her desk each morning until he leaves in the afternoon. And maybe the pretend aide can put it in the teacher's special place on/in her desk. (If all this is practical.) You begin including them as your surrogates while you're gone. So that's a sweet and important ritual to set up for him so that he begins to know there is constancy in the world. He doesn't have to have anxiety about mom disappearing. She comes back. Okay?

Please note that I'm not hesitant to let him be young. He's six but he's dealing with trauma he doesn't really remember in cognitive terms, only emotional terms. And it's in the present for him. That's stretching his developmental abilities, even though he's a bright little boy. So, don't worry about my treating him young, that's okay.

That one is very sweet and loving. Next, practice all the usual ones for regular separation anxiety: a stable schedule as much as possible (again constancy in the world); continually reassure him of your love each morning and when he comes home from school; reward him for any slight improvement (SMALL rewards, but very important); discuss at home each evening what fun thing he did at school that day. To vary the above routine, you play with him with some of his little plastic figures (animals okay) going to school, how the little boy (animal) cries that mommy leaves, but knows he's going to have a good day because he will...then supply the nice thing that happened that day...and how he knows mommy will be back to pick him up for a fun evening with supper. In other words, start rehearsing having a good time at school, having a nice time seeing mommy, having a nice evening home. You insert each time you play more of how the little boy cries less when mommy leaves. Oh, and you also don't make a big scene when you leave him in the morning. You remind him of the game you played and how much you are going to enjoy coming to pick him up in the afternoon so you can go home and play some more. Then you leave and breathe deeply and prepare your strategy for the evening. Okay?


So, follow these procedures. See if there are other ways to involve the teachers as well. And at home, let him be young.

Now, here is the web address for Psychology Today's therapist directory. You can sort by zip codes and when you see someone who seems like they might be helpful (they show you a photo of the therapist!) look at the listing and see if they list children as their focus population and play therapy or sandtray (a good method). Interview the therapist and make sure his/her values are similar to you and you feel confident and comfortable with him/her.


http://therapists.psychologytoday.com/rms/

Good Therapy is a non profit directory. Same idea as the one above:

http://www.goodtherapy.org/advanced-search.html

Okay, I wish you the very best!

My goal is for you to feel like you've gotten Great Service from me and the site. If we need to continue the discussion for that to happen, then please feel free to reply and we'll continue working on this. If the answer has given you the help you need, please remember to give a rating of 5 (Great Service) or 4 (Informative and helpful), or even 3 (Got the job done) button. This will make sure that I am credited for the answer and you are not charged anything more than the deposit you already made by pressing any of these buttons. Bonuses are always appreciated! If I can be of further help with any issue now or in the future, just put "For Dr. Mark" in the front of your new question, and I'll be the one to answer it. All the best, XXXXX XXXXX

Dr. Mark, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5110
Experience: Dr. Mark is a PhD in psychology in private practice
Dr. Mark and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 12 months ago.
Hi! I'm very glad that I was able to help you with this and thank you for your positive rating. If I can help you in the future in any way, please don't hesitate to let me know.


All the best,
Dr. Mark

JustAnswer in the News:

 
 
 
Ask-a-doc Web sites: If you've got a quick question, you can try to get an answer from sites that say they have various specialists on hand to give quick answers... Justanswer.com.
JustAnswer.com...has seen a spike since October in legal questions from readers about layoffs, unemployment and severance.
Web sites like justanswer.com/legal
...leave nothing to chance.
Traffic on JustAnswer rose 14 percent...and had nearly 400,000 page views in 30 days...inquiries related to stress, high blood pressure, drinking and heart pain jumped 33 percent.
Tory Johnson, GMA Workplace Contributor, discusses work-from-home jobs, such as JustAnswer in which verified Experts answer people’s questions.
I will tell you that...the things you have to go through to be an Expert are quite rigorous.
 
 
 

What Customers are Saying:

 
 
 
  • I can go as far as to say it could have resulted in saving my sons life and our entire family now knows what bipolar is and how to assist and understand my most wonderful son, brother and friend to all who loves him dearly. Thank you very much Corrie Moll Pretoria, South Africa
< Last | Next >
  • I can go as far as to say it could have resulted in saving my sons life and our entire family now knows what bipolar is and how to assist and understand my most wonderful son, brother and friend to all who loves him dearly. Thank you very much Corrie Moll Pretoria, South Africa
  • I thank-you so much! It really helped to have this information and confirmation. We will watch her carefully and get her in for the examination and US right away if things do not improve. God bless you as well! Claudia Albuquerque, NM
  • Outstanding response time less than 6 minutes. Answered the question professionally and with a great deal of compassion. Kevin Beaverton, OR
  • Suggested diagnosis was what I hoped and will take this info to my doctor's appointment next week.
    I feel better already! Thank you.
    Elanor Tracy, CA
  • Thank you to the Physician who answered my question today. The answer was far more informative than what I got from the Physicians I saw in person for my problem. Julie Lockesburg, AR
  • You have been more help than you know. I seriously don't know what my sisters situation would be today if you had not gone above and beyond just answering my questions. John and Stefanie Tucson, AZ
  • I have been dealing with an extremely serious health crisis for over three years, and one your physicians asked me more questions, gave me more answers and encouragement than a dozen different doctors who have been treating me!! Janet V Phoenix, AZ
 
 
 

Meet The Experts:

 
 
 
  • Dr. Keane

    Therapist

    Satisfied Customers:

    1262
    Clinical Psychology PhD, Licensed Professional Counselor with experience in marriage/family, teens and child psychology.
< Last | Next >
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/DR/Dr.Keane/2013-8-20_204325_drkeane.64x64.jpg Dr. Keane's Avatar

    Dr. Keane

    Therapist

    Satisfied Customers:

    1262
    Clinical Psychology PhD, Licensed Professional Counselor with experience in marriage/family, teens and child psychology.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/RE/resolutions66/2011-1-17_05728_IMG8202smilingeditedforJustAnswer.64x64.jpg Elliott, LPCC, NCC's Avatar

    Elliott, LPCC, NCC

    Psychotherapist

    Satisfied Customers:

    5024
    35 years of experience as a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, National Certified Counselor and a college professor.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/formybunch/2010-12-06_191055_img_0975.jpg Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC's Avatar

    Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC

    Therapist

    Satisfied Customers:

    3733
    Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/DR/DrAkiraOlsen/2012-2-20_746_AkiraADpicmain.64x64.jpg Dr. Olsen's Avatar

    Dr. Olsen

    Psychologist

    Satisfied Customers:

    2336
    PsyD Psychologist
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/norriem/2009-5-27_134249_nm.jpg Norman M.'s Avatar

    Norman M.

    Psychotherapist

    Satisfied Customers:

    2193
    UK trained in hypnotherapy, counselling and psychotherapy and have been in private practice. ADHP(NC), DEHP(NC), UKCP Registered and ECP.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/PsychologyProf/2010-07-15_171248_logos060400409.jpg Dr. Michael's Avatar

    Dr. Michael

    Psychologist

    Satisfied Customers:

    2177
    Licensed Ph.D. Clinical Health Psychology with 30 years of experience in private practive and as a clinical psychology university professor.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/KURTEMMERLING/2010-07-23_215531_just_ask_picture1.jpg Steven Olsen's Avatar

    Steven Olsen

    Therapist

    Satisfied Customers:

    1727
    More than twenty years of expertise in counseling, psychological diagnosis and education