Afraid of grandparent - help

Anne - posted on 04/03/2010 ( 8 moms have responded )

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Hi

My 13 month old little girl is afraid of my father in law. He has come to stay with us for Easter. He lives quite a distance away so he only gets to see her about 3 or 4 times a year. My parents on the other hand get to see her every day and she is very close to them. He has quite a brusk manner about him and whereas my parents enthuse about things with her and encourage her he is always making jokey critical remarks to her. I have tried to encourage her to show her Grandpa something, telling her he will be really interested to see how she can work a toy or to show off her new hat - she likes to model hats and we all tell her how fetching she looks in them. But he will then quite sharply say things like - 'what have you got that on for?', 'what a mess you look!', 'that's not how you do it is it!'. She is very intelligent and understands everything that is being said and the combination of the tone of voice and the discouragement hasn't helped her to warm to him. She is terrifed. She won't go and play with her toys in the living room anymore because he sits in there. If he is out of the room and we go in she keeps glancing over to his empty chair in fear. She has changed from her happy, active, boisterous self to being clingy and subdued. She won't eat if she can hear his voice in the house and has stopped running around and babbling. She was reaching for his used towel in the spare room today and I was unsucessfully telling her it was dirty and not to touch and then I said 'that belongs to Grandpa' and a look of terror came into her eyes and she dropped it and clung on to me. The mere mention of his name upsets her. She was playing outside in her little car today enjoying the sunshine and then he came outside and she froze and could not play anymore. She freezes in his presence and my husband doesn't realise that she is unhappy. He takes her up to Grandpa thinking she is cool with it because she's not crying anymore (she went hysterical and cried her eyes out the first night arrived) and keeps her there, her eyes nearly popping out of her head. I have told him she is still afraid but I'm not sure he will stay aware of it. I've asked him to tell his dad to speak more gently and more encouragingly to her. My husband is not great at communications though and he probably won't deliver the message correctly and my father in law will probably end up just thinking I'm being rude and bonkers. Grandpa will be here for a few more days and I hate to see my little girl under so much stress but I'm also sorry for my father in law. He has come specifically to see her and she won't go near him. Does anyone have any suggestions for what I can do to make her more comfortable around him? I have tried prompting him by saying 'doesn't she look good in that hat' but he never takes the cue. Another thing is he is deaf so we have to shout and he shouts back.

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Traci - posted on 04/04/2010

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I would just lie. "Oh, she's just going through a little phase where she likes to play alone in her room!" or something... poor kid! I feel for you, and I feel bad for the Grandpa as well.

Brenda - posted on 04/03/2010

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There isn't much you can do, I don't think. Fear is not something in a child that goes away quickly once it has been instilled. If he talks loud, that alone is going to scare her. You just need to explain to your husband how fearful she is.

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Anne - posted on 04/05/2010

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Thanks Traci :-)
Erin - No my daughter is never alone with him she is with me most of the day and when I have to go express milk she is with her daddy or granny. I can assure you there is nothing untoward going on. She's only 13 months old and has become a bit shy of strangers -which he basically is to her. And he just has a brusque manner that upset her. It was a hard on her because she got no relaxation time -she was aware of him being in the house all day long. Tomorrow he goes home and she has become ok with him. She has resumed normal activity but keeps at least 10 feet away from him at all times! My husband finds it difficult to communicate with his father but he seems to have got the message across. I felt a bit guilty keeping her away from him because he isn't in great health and he keeps asking for us to go and stay with him. I have kept telling him we can't because of many practicalities not least of which his house smells very strongly of cigarettes. He also wouldn't make any preparations for us and so there would be no food in and heaps of cleaning etc. Anyway that's another issue I suppose. For now at least my little girl can relax and at least he got to see her some.

Erin - posted on 04/05/2010

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It's definitely your husband's job to make sure your FIL acts appropriately around your daughter - hopefully he continues to keep his dad in check. Your daughter should be her daddy's first priority. But if he doesn't continue to handle the situation I'd be completely willing to avoid Gramps for awhile longer.

Hopefully she's never been left alone with Grandpa where there could be more behind her fear? I'm sure you'd sense it if something more serious was going on. Glad to hear she seems to be getting more comfortable!

Traci - posted on 04/04/2010

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That is really great news, AnneMarie. I'm happy to hear change might be in the works.

Anne - posted on 04/04/2010

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Well today there was a miraculous turn-around from the last few days. My husband seems to have got the message across because my FIL spoke kindly to her today and we gave him a little Easter gift of 2 books and a card to give to her and she gave him a simle and a wave. She is still very wary of him but is much happier now and is back to running around, babbling and playing. It's good to see - I was getting worried about her.

Anne - posted on 04/04/2010

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Good idea Traci. I will say that. He won't be so upset if he thinks is a phase. He isn't down with the AP thing though and tends to think children should just get used to things and fit in with adults convenience but it's just too much stress on her. It's a shame because he turns up at every special event - Christmas, birthday etc and so far in her life all these celebrations have been an anxious time for her. She hasn't been this bad before but at Christmas she had just seen her toys and her face was lit up in excitement and delight, then she saw he was there and was too afraid to open them.

Anne - posted on 04/03/2010

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Thanks Brenda. I don't know how much I should try to get her to be around him. It seems very rude to keep her in a different room for his entire visit when he has come to see her but I hate to put her through such stress. Should I keep trying to get him to speak gently to her? She is such a sweety and despite her fear she will show him things with great trepidation but she keeps getting knocked back.

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