By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Talk with 'The Doctor' beats counseling
Placeholder Image
Regular readers of this column are no doubt familiar with my imaginary friend, The Doctor. I often call upon him to solve behavior problems of various sorts, from bedtime to toilet training, with young children. Well, he’s done it again! This time with separation anxiety; or, I should say, what many mental health professionals would call separation anxiety.
The child in question is a male, presently age 5. His mother attended a recent talk I gave in Durham, N.C., and shared this helpful and funny story with me. With her permission, I am passing it along. She asked only that I change her son’s name, so for our purposes he will be Frankie.
For some time, Frankie had been having a major problem with separation from his mother. Every time she took him to his preschool program or left him with a sitter, Frankie had a major meltdown. I emphasize major. He would scream, cling, become hysterical and generally act like a nut case. Otherwise, mind you, Frankie was a normal kid in all respects. Oh, I should tell you: Frankie hates to take naps. I mean HATES.
Shortly before his fifth birthday, Frankie’s mom read a column of mine in which I described one of The Doctor’s miracle cures and decided to ask him to make a house call.
The afternoon following one of Frankie’s nut-case meltdowns over being taken to his preschool program, his mom sat him down and told him that she’d talked to his doctor about his little problem. The doctor, she said, was concerned and told her that Frankie is throwing “Don’t leave me!” fits because he’s not getting enough sleep.
“So,” she said to Frankie, “on those days when you have a fit because I leave you at your program, you have to take a nap. Your doctor says so. He also says you have to take a nap the next day if you have a fit over being left with a sitter at night. And Frankie, since you had a fit this morning, you have to take a nap this afternoon, right now.”
She promptly took Frankie to his room and put him to bed. After about 45 minutes of howling, screaming, crying and pleading, he fell asleep. The next day, when his mom took him to his preschool program, he got out of the car and walked right in, with nary a backward glance. And Frankie hasn’t had a problem with separation since.
It’s fair to say that if Frankie’s mom had sought help from a mental health professional, there is considerable likelihood that Frankie would have been diagnosed with separation anxiety disorder. Said professional might well have taken Frankie into talk or play therapy in order to help him work through the supposed “issues” that were causing the problem. It’s anyone’s guess as to how much time and money this process might have taken (not to mention the cost of continuing consultations with Frankie’s parents). Furthermore, the therapy might not have resulted in progress (in fact, the problem might have grown worse in the meantime) in which case, perhaps said MHP might have given Frankie yet another diagnosis and scheduled yet more treatment.
I’m not saying The Doctor is capable of curing all children who have problems separating from their parents. Nor am I saying that all such problems have no valid psychological cause. I am saying, however, that there are times when common sense trumps graduate school.

Psychologist Rosemond answers parents’ questions on his Web site,
Sign up for our e-newsletters