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 concerning young children. Well, the doctor has done it again! This time, the cure is concerned with what many mental health professionals would call separation anxiety.
The child in question is a male, five years old. His mother attended a talk I gave recently and shared this 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 Georgie.
For some time, Georgie had been having a problem with separation from his mother. Every time she took him to his preschool program, for example, Georgie had a major meltdown. Like, major. He would become hysterical and generally act like he was certifiable. Otherwise, mind you, Georgie was a normal kid in all respects.
Shortly before his fifth birthday, Georgie’s mom read a column of mine in which I described one of the doctor’s miracle cures. She promptly decided to ask the doctor to make a house call.
The afternoon following one of Georgie’s nut-job meltdowns over being taken to his preschool program, his mom sat him down and told him that she’d talked to a doctor about his problem. The doctor, she said, was concerned and told her that Georgie was throwing “Don’t leave me!” fits because he wasn’t getting enough sleep.
Mom said to Georgie, “The doctor said children your age throw tantrums over stuff like that because they need more sleep. He said that on days when you have a fit when I drop you at school, you have to go to bed early, right after dinner, so you get the sleep you need. The doctor said so. You had a fit this morning when I took you to school, so you have to go to bed early tonight.”
As promised, Mom put Georgie to bed early. 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, Georgie got out of the car and walked right in with nary a backward glance. And Georgie hasn’t had a problem with separation since.
It’s fair to say that if Georgie’s mom had sought help from a mental health professional, there is a considerable likelihood that Georgie would have been diagnosed with separation anxiety disorder. Said professional might well have taken Georgie into talk or play therapy to (supposedly) 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 and whether it would have succeeded at all.