fear of school toilets - irrational and nobody's fault - practical tips?

(23 Posts)
drinkingtea Mon 05-May-14 06:53:10

Hi!
I have an 8 year old who seems happy at school, but confessed to me a couple of nights ago that she never, ever goes to the toilet at school as she's scared to. This hasn't been a problem for her until this school year, as we live abroad where they do a short school day til year 3, but now she is out of the house for 6.5 hours, including the journey to and from school. She has now started to get pain in her hips and tummy - I think kidney pain from holding it in so long, and has admitted to having wet herself on the way home a couple of times - she sorted it out herself, and as she is a child who likes to change her clothes multiple times a day I didn't think anything of the fact she'd got changed!

So ... I am sending her to the toilet last moment before she leaves for school - what else can I do? She refused my suggestion I ask her teacher to let somebody go with her to the toilet, as apparently everyone will laugh at her (she is very aware of what others think...). She doesn't even want to go at break, when others are in there, as she doesn't want to shut the cubicle door!

Its a little insane as she thinks there are ghosts in all toilets (she leaves the door open at home as well, and at friends houses her friends go with her into the bathroom and chat to her while she goes - obviously this is going to stop happening before she is much older!) Nobody has tried to frighten her, she says, and I do believe this - she has an over active imagination all of her own, despite not watching age inappropriate media or anything... She rationally accepts that ghosts don't exist, but is still afraid when it comes to it...

I actually pondered giving her one of her toddler sibling's pull ups, but that is not the way to go I don't think, as apart from anything other kids will notice...

Any ideas? Worried she is damaging her kidneys not going for 6.5 hours...

ThreeLannistersOneTargaryen Mon 05-May-14 07:18:39

What to do when you worry too much, by Dawn Huebner: might help with the general anxiety.

Ask the GP to put her on the (long) waiting list for CBT if any is available in your area. This is affecting her life significantly, so I think she's meet the referral criteria.

Not sure if this would be feasible, but work out a system of very gradual exposure and desensitisation with her. Would she be willing to put one foot inside the area where the sinks are? Would she then be able to go in for one second? Perhaps then she could go all the way in and touch a cubicle door? If you explain the situation to school, they might let her go in with you and try this out when the other children aren't there, e.g. before morning registration.

WipsGlitter Mon 05-May-14 07:25:14

Apparently lots if children don't like going to the toilet in school - they're smelly and they worry about being spied on by other children.

If you leave her to school can you take her in and as the pp says sort if desensitise her? Have you spoken to her teacher?

FamiliesShareGerms Mon 05-May-14 07:53:36

Can you give her something to "get rid of the ghosts"? Something like a special necklace or badge that will scare them away?

Just a thought - I think you need to sort out the problem with going to the toilet, not work round it with pull ups

Littleturkish Mon 05-May-14 08:10:30

I would strongly advise against the pull ups.

You need to advise her teacher of what is happening, they need to find a way to accommodate her using a toilet at school- even if that's using the staff toilet with a teacher keeping the door ajar and standing outside.

I would also enlist the help of a play therapist to work through this issue with her- ask the school to arrange, or pay for one privately.

Good luck.

drinkingtea Mon 05-May-14 08:40:41

Thanks ThreeLannisters - we already have "What to do when you worry too much" for her 6 year old brother, who has kind of separation anxiety/ dislike of situations where he doesn't know exactly what is going to happen... argh not sure how I ended up with 2 with anxieties, especially as they are vastly differnt personalities! I wouldn't say DD has general anxiety though - she is usually very outgoing and brave and tries all sorts of new things, and is always going to friends' houses without me, happy to stand up and make a presentation in front of her class etc. This is very specific. However it is an anxiety, I see that, so will try the book with her. DS responded better to the "Panicosourus" book (partly as he doesn't much like drawing and can't write very well yet) so I can make the "What to do" one DD's sad

I think from what she said that she does go into the toilets with her friends at break, just not into the cubicle to actually use the toilet. She leaves the door open when she goes at home too - she doesn't want to shut herself into the cubicle/ bathroom on her own! confused

Going in with her before school is probably not feasible, as morning registration is at 7.45am, and the kids are allowed inside from before that, and I have 2 younger boys who can't be dropped off til 8am, after her school day has started. She also gets the bus to school - I can take her and don't mind doing so, but she likes getting the bus and parents don't take and fetch on a regular basis (abroad) it is pretty strongly discouraged - its just one of those "everyone would notice" factors - I do wander into the school every now and then, but I know most of the kids (small school, small rural community of a few small villages and hamlets) and they know who's mum I am and ask me what I am doing grin so it would be hard to do inconspicuously.

I wonder if I should "desensitise" her to other toilets, as she doesn't close the door at home ... maybe she has to get used to closing and locking the toilet door at home (a good idea anyway as she has younger brothers who often have friends around, and one is close enough in age for that to be a potential issue. ATM I don't think she tends to go to the toilet while her closest in age brother's friends are in the house - I must admit the toilet issue has passed me by rather, I never saw any problem til she said, as she doesn't have accidents I notice or anyone else has mentioned! blush

drinkingtea Mon 05-May-14 08:43:46

Wips that'S what I thought (and told her) lots of children don't like going to the toilet at school - but I guess they go quickly for wees at least, I know a lot of people wait til they get home for anything that takes longer! grin

rabbitrisen Mon 05-May-14 08:48:02

Has she got a trusted friend to stand outside the door for her at school?

But yes, do it in small steps at home. Practice with her. It may take a few months before she feels comfortable at each stage.

drinkingtea Mon 05-May-14 08:48:48

Families I think she is too old and to bright for the placebo "special necklace" type thing - I gave her a wind chime against bad dreams when she was 3 (pseudo dream catcher) which "worked" but she is 8 now - she "knows" there are no ghosts, she knows that I don't believe in such things - so if I tried to convince her I had an anti ghost necklace for her I think she'd be very hmm and lose faith in me and my ability to help her sort the problem out. I agree with you though, that pull ups probably aren't the answer - she was upset because she thought one of her friends, who she walks home from the bus with, might have noticed that she wet herself in the last moments before getting home to use our toilet... that last bit of the journey is avoidable as she can walk over to where her brothers are and come home with us (which she often does anyway) which sort of avoids that last moment wetting potential when she's in sight of the house and can't hold it the last minute... but isn't a proper solution either.

drinkingtea Mon 05-May-14 08:56:29

Little I will think about talking to her teacher - her teacher is nice, but DD has asked me not to - she doesn't want to be sent with a friend because others in the class will notice, as it is not normal practice and nobody else does it. School won't refer here - they will tell me to go via a doctor, the system just works a bit differently here, and school would only refer for something directly academic.

I already took her to the paediatric centre via a doctor's referral because her teacher (different teacher, last year) said she was daydreaming so much in class that she was missing huge chunks of the school day (she was ending up with hours of work to catch up on at home, which again is how it works here) and they assessed her but clearly thought I was bonkers as they said she is very able with a good concentration span and there is nothing the matter - luckily I saw a child psychologist who had worked in Scotland for years who said there had probably been a culture clash in terms of communication with the teacher - negatives are stressed here and positives barely mentioned, as the assumption is parents only need to know about problems and no news means everything is going well grin Her problems of last year have resolved this year anyway and she is getting on well in the classroom, perhaps this year's work or this teacher suit her better. So if I roll up asking for another referral I am going to be on the paranoid/ neurotic mother list I think!

I will think about going to the doctor if we can't resolve this on our own though...

drinkingtea Mon 05-May-14 09:01:45

rabbit yes she has some very good friends - I think her worry is that other children will notice this happening.... there is one trouble maker/ stirrer in their wider group who does seem to pick up on any sign of weakness and use it, and that has caused a few problems this year - nothing unusual, but something that DD is very aware of... I did suggest she tell one particular girl and ask for her help in terms of company, and DD's response was that girl A would probably help her but girl M would notice... It's complicated being an 8 year old girl it seems! confused

Littleturkish Mon 05-May-14 09:13:21

Definitely look on the registered play therapist website for a therapist for your daughter to see. I think it would've less daunting than a full on psychologist for CBT and would help uncover what this toilet aversion/closed and locked doors thing is all about.

Does she use toilets when you go to the restaurant etc?

drinkingtea Mon 05-May-14 09:22:36

Yep she does little - I don't think she's worried about using toilets exactly, I guess its the closed and locked doors... if I go to a public toilet with her we don't go into the same cubicle, but she tends to talk to me the whole time (but then she talks a lot anyway)... I am not sure I have got to the bottom of quite what she is worried about exactly - she never has much liked being alone, even as a toddler she wouldn't play in a room nobody else was in even if people were near by (would bring her toys into the kitchen not stay in the living room, would do without bringing another toy down from upstairs if nobody would go up and fetch it with her) - not clingy so much as loving company and needing constant chatter... Hmmm

There is a play therapist locally who works alone in a little practice in the grounds of another school, rather than driving an hour to the nearest big paediatric centre for an interdisciplinary assessment, as happened with the concentration red herring last year... I guess I will look into whether we could have just a one off or small number of sessions, if we haven't made headway soon...

Littleturkish Mon 05-May-14 12:58:00

So in a restaurant she would go into the toilet on her own and use the toilet with the door shut?

Would she go in unaccompanied? Or do you have to be outside the door?

If it's the 'shutting a door and being on her own' that is the problem, could she not go to the toilet at lunch when there are other people there, and talk to a friend through the door?

ThreeLannistersOneTargaryen Mon 05-May-14 13:00:58

Unfortunately, many children in secondary school (so a bit older than your DD) have an extreme aversion to using toilets at school. Most of them either train themselves to hold on, or just don't drink anything during the day. sad

DS2 will only use the toilets in the music block. The others smell strange (he says) and are echoey. He has now joined a choir or orchestra nearly every lunchtime to enable a toilet trip in the middle of the day, so at least his musical education is benefitting.

drinkingtea Mon 05-May-14 13:31:44

Wow ThreeLanisters - that's dedication to the music block toilets! As you say, at least it has a positive side effect! grin Unfortunately my DD will go to secondary school in 16 months time, just before she turns 10... not that far off! sad

Littleturkish - to be honest we don't go top restaurants a lot, so I am struggling to totally honestly and accurately say what she would do. At the cinema she goes happily, but then I am also in the toilets (though not in the cubicle) usually with her brothers and a friend or two... At a cafe she goes... but often she takes her brother with her into the ladies (which again, is something that will have to stop soon as he's boarderline too old, but he doesn't like going alone either in that situation, though he has no problem at "school" (technically Kindergarten)...

She can't go at lunch because that is the end of the school day grin School is 7.45am - 1pm ... they have a 20 minute break when she could go with other children there, but says she is scared even if there are others in the toilets... she says she needs somebody to talk to her the whole time ... I am not totally sure why she can't do this at break or whether she is just scared whoever she is talking to might wander off while she is still going... I think they all rush at break as it is the only play time they get and they all want to be outside ASAP... but in all honesty I don't quite get it myself so its hard to explain on here! She is home now, but playing outside with her brothers and friends, so I don't want to go and question her - haven't seen her alone since she got home. She is likely to want to talk about it at bed time I think... Will see what she says tonight.

Thank you all for your help everyone. She can "hold it" a long time for an 8 year old - last year when her day finished an hour earlier she never reported any problems, but the extra hour seems to be an hour too long and she is having these kidney pains and occasional well hidden accidents just as she has almost reached the safety of the home toilet!

Littleturkish Mon 05-May-14 14:36:14

Ok, I think this is the best course of action, based on what you've said.

Explain to her how she is hurting her body by 'holding'. She is old enough to appreciate the medical side of it. Explain to her that together, you and her, are going to solve the problem.

Then explore the idea of asking a very good friend to go in the break/afterschool and talk to her the whole time she's in there.

I would also enlist the services of that play therapist to do some sessions with her- it definitely needs sorting out ASAP.

drinkingtea Mon 05-May-14 15:09:18

Thanks Littleturkish - I'm sitting in the garden watching her snakeboard with her friend as if she hasn't a care in the world grin funny how kids can compartmentalise! But it needs sorting, will follow your advice - this thread has been very helpful getting my head around how to go about it.

Littleturkish Mon 05-May-14 17:35:43

It sounds like a really tricky situation with lots of delicate balancing to do to ensure it isn't inflamed and made worse. You sound like a lovely caring mum and I hope you get to the bottom of the problem and everyone is happier for it.

giggly Thu 15-May-14 15:23:49

Just noticed this thread, my dd age 8 developed a similar issue with the school toilets last year. We are in Australia and she was convinced that there was spiders everywhere. She would retain all day with a few calls to me from the school as she was complaining of stomach pains until the day that she wet herself. The school suggested a friend went with her until the school issue disappeared. However we still have issues around other toilets, but then there was an incident with a gecko on the toilet roll holder which freaked her out.

bigTillyMint Thu 15-May-14 15:28:43

I used to hate the school toilets when I was at school. My primary school had only been open 5 years when I started, so it couldn't have been that. I think it was the smell, etc.

I used to hang on all day and then run home! I now have amazing bladder capacity as long as I don't sneeze

Does your DD hate all public toilets?

Seeline Thu 15-May-14 15:59:09

Is she using the 'ghosts' as an excuse? I got stuck in a school toilet when I was small when the bolt got jammed. It put me off locking doors for a long time. Just wondering whether she may have had a similar bad experience, but is using the ghost theory to cover it up.

rebbeca Mon 31-Oct-16 11:47:28

I have a problem with my 8 year old daughter, up untill a few months ago she was very good about using the loo, but then for some reason she started holding on when she wanted to go. when i noticed i asked if she needed the loo and she said no, but it was pretty obvious that she did, so i took her up stairs myself. She came down a few minutes later, i assumed she had been, and she went out side, at about the same time i went out to the washing line and caught her hiding behind the garage wetting her knickers. i grounded her for the day. But a few day later when she came home from school she had wet herself on the way, shes now wetting several times a week maybe more its hard to tell, when i had ago about it she floored me by saying she likes weeing herself because it feels nice, is this possible do i accept it as her thing or stop it right now ?

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