Potty Regression - Parents Splitting Up/Divorcing

When a traumatic experience happens in the family, many times children will regress. This can include potty training, as well as other behaviors too that they have not exhibited for quite some time.

Potty regression especially does happen when a family splits up and the routine has changed, as well as they are not seeing both their parents any longer at the same time. It is normal for a child to act out as a way to get attention, as well as because they are confused and upset by what is happening in the family.

When parents split up, this also means that both parents are not there to help with the potty training at the same time and both parents are not there at the same time to encourage and praise the child's behavior too. However, this does not mean that potty training has to stop or that a child will not get past the separation or divorce. Instead what it means is that the parents will need to work together to ensure that there is consistency in the routine for their child when potty training.

Tips to keep in mind:

  • Backing off of potty training temporarily may be necessary, just for a short time, until the situation has calmed down and all moving has stopped. If your child is upset, it will make it harder for them to go and while a separation or divorce is taking place, there will be moving and changing of schedules. Backing off on the potty training during this time and then coming back to it may be a better idea. Allow your child time to adjust and then bring up potty training again, so they are not learning too many new things at one time. 
  • The same schedule needs to be adhered to at both households. Whatever the schedule is that the child has been on when potty training needs to stay the same. There can not be inconsistencies depending on who's house they are at. This will cause additional behavioral problems, as well as continue to make potty training confusing to them too. 
  • Staying very patient and calm during this time is important. Getting upset about accidents will only make things worse and your child may regress further. Instead, stay very calm and understanding, as well as continue to praise and encourage them when they potty correctly. Continue with the rewards that are in place and if there have not been any, than this is a perfect time to start using them to encourage them to go to the bathroom. Stickers, small trinkets or anything else your child responds to can be used for a reward.
  • Make sure that both households have a potty chair or potty seat for your child to use. You wan to make the situation as close to how it was prior to the divorce or separation to make the adjustment easier.

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A DEATH IN THE FAMILY AFFECTING POTTY TRAINING (11/11/2014) Reviewer: Sandy (Towanda, Il)

Can the death of a grandparent who was very close to the child have a negative effect on potty training? She is very afraid to go potty, & she is 4 yrs. old.

PTC RESPONSE:Any change in a young child's life could very well have some impact on her potty training and make her regress. It could be something as trivial as a change in scheduling to something major like a death in the family.

It is now that you will need to be patient with her and re-assure her that everything is going to be okay. Once she works through it, she should go right back to being herself. If you see that it goes on too long, you might try checking with her pediatrician for further advise. They are better qualified to help you.

more of this is needed (6/30/2012) Reviewer: Terry Salguero (Athens, Ga )

Unfortunately many parents may have this problem, so more help in this area will be great.

Also, do you know of any resources in Spanish? Terry

Comments: We are in the process of having our articles translated to Spanish.

In the meantime, we suggest that you copy and paste the article into the Google English to Spanish translator.