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Separation Anxiety From a 7 Year Old Boy? He won't leave me alone!

(6 Posts)
TheRhubarb Sun 28-Aug-11 11:58:51

Ds is 7 and a half years old. We recently went on holiday to a place we've visited before to stay in a house he's familiar with. However from night one we realised there was a problem. He wouldn't go to bed or settle until we were also in bed and even then he was anxious. He had got it into his head that I would disappear. I couldn't go into another room without him following me. This wasn't just a bit of fear, he was absolutely terrified. If I was on the loo and didn't answer his first shout of "mum" he'd start crying in fear.

This is not a phase. He's always been scared of me leaving him. A new term at school would be accompanied with crying and clinging onto me. We've had problems with him feigning tummy ache just to come home because he "missed" me. I cannot pay for petrol without him coming with me, or step into the garden without him there.

He goes off fine with his dad, but if I'm around he's always checking that I'm still there. At night he gets up 2-3 times with various excuses. He's never like this with his dad, just me.

I'm now worried that his clinginess, which I assumed would pass as he got older, is getting worse and not better. The holiday highlighted just how bad it has got. My dh thinks this is a phase and that we should just leave it, but I'm not so sure.

I don't know how to handle it now. I've tried the sympathy and reassurance tact but that doesn't work. I've tried tough love but he gets so scared he nearly wets himself. He keeps saying he is sorry, he can't articulate what he's scared about, but there is no doubt that he is very scared and that centres around me. Any advice on how to handle this or what I should do would be appreciated.

TheRhubarb Sun 28-Aug-11 12:46:31

Oh poo, everyone's off on their bank holiday jollies.

Yr1Mum Mon 29-Aug-11 00:09:47

Hi Rhubarb0- no great pearls of wisdom I'm afraid but I couldn't let your post go unanswered. What you've described is exactly what I was like at that age and, for me, it continued until I was about 10. I did daft things like manage to lock the car keys in the car following my mum into a shop even though she'd parked right outside and been gone only 2 minutes. I also used to feign tummy ache, thirst, being too hot/cold etc just to come downstairs at night several times to make sure my M&D were still in the house and hadn't run off somewhere and abandoned me. I also sat outside the loo every time my mum went in!

May be worth talking to the GP to see if you can get some help from a child psychologist or similar? The fact that he's apologising for it and getting anxious about the anxiety itself sounds like you might need some external help to try to enable him to articulate his concerns.

Really good luck.

TheRhubarb Mon 29-Aug-11 10:08:45

Hey, thanks for answering. Can I ask what made you finally snap out of it? What action did your parents take? How did they handle it?

I just don't know whether I should be tough or sympathetic. I understand they are real fears, but obviously things cannot go on like this. As you have said, I cannot leave him in the car even just to nip out to pay for petrol. When he comes downstairs at night he's either thirsty/cold/tummy ache/lost his toy/can't sleep/had a bad dream etc. And yes I've found him sat outside the loo too.

Any pointers on how to handle this without blowing my top would be great.

Yr1Mum Mon 29-Aug-11 22:02:07

Sorry for late reply - I only get on MN at night! To be honest I can't remember the anxiety coming to an end specifically so I can only assume that I grew out of it gradually. I recall my Mum reacting with a mixture of sympathy and annoyance at turns, she didn't appear to have a specific approach to deal with it. For me, looking back, I think I had the anxiety from a very young age but it really kicked in at 7 after we moved house which for some reason must have been some kind of trigger.

As you've seen for yourself, all I can tell you is that the fear is very real. I was convinced my M&D were either going to abandon me by leaving or die but had no good reason for these fears.

The other thing I remember is 2 of my aunties trying to get me to "snap out of it" by deliberately leaving me alone when they were looking after me (my Mum occasionally had to work). That most definitely did not help and just served to increase the anxiety.

I'm really sorry I don't have any top tips - have you googled to see if there's any online help? If he were mine, having had the experiences I had, I think I would get the GP involved to see if there's any help out there to try to deal with it asap so he can be free of the anxiety to enjoy his growing maturity.

HTH a little. x

TheRhubarb Tue 30-Aug-11 14:53:03

Thank you, that does help a lot. It's interesting to know how it feels from his perspective. It must have affected your mum for her to have asked your aunties for help, so I can only sympathise with what she must have gone through too!
He seems a little more settled at home although he does keep coming into the room where I'm working, just to peep round the door and make sure I'm still there. I'll see how it goes I think as I do wonder what use the GP would be. By the time he has an appointment to see anyone he will have probably grown out of it! I do hope this is it getting worse before it gets better and I'll just keep reassuring him until then.
Thanks again x

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