Children may avoid defecation, “withholding” as pediatricians call it, to try to control their environment. Stressors include a new sibling or school, toilet training, moving homes, unfamiliar bathrooms. Stools that hurt to pass can also lead to withholding.
For children who might be afraid to go to the bathroom, distractions can help. Have them blow bubbles to steady their breathing or read a book, suggested Katherine Lamparyk, a psychologist at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital Center. Establishing a routine for them to sit on the toilet for 5 to 10 minutes at the same time daily, like after meals, is also recommended.