Is My Ex Making My Daughter Sick?

Dear Mamas,

My daughter is 4.5 years old.  Her father and I have been separated since she was 8 months old.  It was a very difficult divorce and continues to be difficult in the nearly year since it officailly ended.  This summer my daughter started spending two-three weeks at a time with him, alternating with similar time with me.  She returned from her last two week visit with a rash from head to toe.  And I mean head to toe…on her scalp and soles of her feet!  It took some orapred to break the itch, oatmeal bathes, lotion etc.  The rash went away.  She has since resumed alternate weekend visits with him during the preschool year.  Since then she has returned each time with a rash.  I have not yet taken her to the doctor, due to the fact that our pediatrician moved and we do not have a new one.  I have a friend who has eczema and thinks it looks like eczema to her.  I have read about the connection between eczema and stress.  Could this be a cause?  What can I do at home to help her deal with the stress of leaving me and going to her father whom she does not want to see?


Dear Felicia,

Boy oh boy, do you have your work cut out! There’s a lot going on here and I’m glad you wrote in because there are definite things that you can and should do immediately.

1. You need to find a pediatrician right away and take her in to get a diagnosis. Even though you think her rash is the result of stress, there are several other likely possibilities. I know that when a doctor leaves the area we feel that gap but when you have a kid, you cannot afford to wait. Ask your friends who they go to or ask your own doctor who he or she recommends. If you end up not liking the doc, no problem, you can switch. But keep him (or her) until you find someone else who you prefer. Then you have a medical parenting partner on board, ready to help when these kinds of things come up. You NEED that!

2. You mention that she comes back to you with a rash but not that you have spoken to your ex about it! It seems like common sense to do so but sometimes unfinished business from a messy and painful divorce gets in the way of basic, necessary parental communication. I would urge you to talk to your ex about the condition. Ask him what he thinks could be causing it. Maybe he has an answer or at least an idea. It’s going to be key though, that you ask without using a blaming voice. You two HAVE to put your heads together on this one. Your little girl needs both of her parents to act maturely despite their differences and figure it out together.

3. The medication you mentioned is a prescription drug and a powerful one at that. It’s really important that parents never give their child prescription meds without a doctor’s guidance. Some medications that we adults use, even lotions, are harmful for children. And until you know what you are treating you really have no idea of what the drug could do to make the situation worse.

4. Although your friend sounds like a kind person who is only trying to help, she is not qualified to give medical advice. Her suggestion that the rash might be eczema is really not useful here. You need a doctor.

5. Finally, it’s clear that you are still suffering greatly over the divorce. It sounds like it was really tough and that a lot of trust was lost between you and your ex. It would be great if you could just walk away and forget about him but you can’t — you’re joined for life because you have a child together. Unfortunately, this won’t get easier and it’s your daughter who will suffer if the two of you can’t put your spousal stuff aside and figure out how to co-parent. It might be hard but you owe this to her.

Find a good family therapist and get to work. In the end YOU will feel so much more empowered and free. And your daughter will be able to grow up without being burdened by having to choose one of you over the other. Her adjustment will improve and the stress level for everyone will go down.

I know this might sound a little overwhelming but you can do it. You’re a lot stronger than you think you are. Good luck and hang in.

We love getting all of your questions and want to give you everything that our combined brains have to offer. So keep sending them in! But if you are looking for a more personal touch with lots more detail and follow up, please visit us at and and find out how to get the royal treatment. You deserve it, Mamas!



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Ellen W. Schrier, LCSW, is a family therapist and the mother of three adolescent/young adult kids.

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