DD has suddenly developed a fear of my MIL and it's devastating us all. Any Help?

(36 Posts)
purpledatura Fri 06-Sep-13 18:02:55

I've been lurking and have plucked up the courage to finally ask for some advice because I don't know where to turn sad

My DD (4.. will be 5 in November) has always had a strong and loving relationship with my MIL. She is a fantastic Nanna, and even though she works part time, she has helped me and DH with childcare since DD was 9 months old. She has always had her over for 'sleepovers' roughly once a week as I work nights and DH doesn't come home til after 10pm. Not only has this been a lifeline for us, but until around 3 weeks ago, DD loved going there and adored my MIL.

We don't know whats gone wrong, but we noticed DD was getting anxious about sleeping over there and the last time she went, she was weepy and begging me not to go to work because she 'missed her home at night' and missed us too. She got through the night with a lot of fretting, crying and difficult behaviour at my MILs and since then hasn't been back (we were on holiday for a week, and I've had annual leave to be here for her first week in reception) I'm back in work this weekend, and was in desperate need for her to go to my MIL Saturday night but she has point blank refused. DH thinks that there is a lot of attention seeking behaviour going on, and that she needs to go there to see there is nothing to be scared of. My MIL is devastated and is in tears a lot of the time because she insists she hasn't done anything wrong (which I wholeheartedly agree with), my DH and me are having arguments over it and he is really hurt about his Mum and Daughter's relationship breaking down. In the middle of all this is my poor DD who last night sobbed and cried into my arms and wet herself with the fear over the prospect of going there. When asked what's happened to make her so so scared, she says its because its too far away (about 6 miles from us) and shes frightened she will never see us or her home again. The only incident that my MIL can think of, was that DD was a little bit tired one afternoon there weeks ago and was quite naughty, so MIL sent her to her room to calm down. (DD has her own room there) It was never mentioned at the time as DD forgot about it and it was over as quickly as it started.

The saddest thing of all is, is that she WILL stay with my Mum and Dad quite happily. They are having her for me overnight Saturday so I can work, but they both work too, so there will be a lot of juggling going on and I won't be getting any sleep. (literally.. I won't be able to go to bed in the day after my nights) This is causing friction between me and DH because she is favouring my parents and it hurts. Incidentally, my Parents live 4 streets away so DD says she doesn't mind it there as it's still 'home'

What do I do? I've called time on the sleepovers at MILs for now, and DD is happy with that. DH has suggested visits there with him but she's reluctant to go there even for an hour with us there. I understand that children all go through a phase of separation anxiety, but the fact that it's solely centered on my MIL is so awful that we all feel emotionally drained by it.

Any advice, help, suggestions, experiences would be great as I just don't know what to do anymore.

Bluemonkeyspots Fri 06-Sep-13 18:09:40

Only thing I can think of is if it is possible for you or dh to go and spent the night with her at mil's? It might "erase" the bad feeling?

Otherwise is it possible to call/FaceTime her at regular intervals?

Could mil come to you for the next few weeks till it all settles down?

I hate to ask but you are 100% sure nothing else has gone on? I understand how you can trust mil to discipline dd as I have the same relationship with my parents (dh in forces and away a lot so my parents have literally helped bring my dc up) but it seems a bit odd for her to be like this at this age.

Slippydippysoap Fri 06-Sep-13 18:15:55

I'm afraid that this doesn't sound attention seeking.

Something has scared your DD and you may need to be open to the possibility that all is not what it seems hmm

Andro Fri 06-Sep-13 18:18:02

Could she have inadvertently overheard something that has distressed her?

Badvoc Fri 06-Sep-13 18:18:54

Your daughter wet herself in fear?
I am not sure you are getting the full story here op.

purpledatura Fri 06-Sep-13 18:21:11

MIL came over the day we went on holiday, and DD was quite rude to her and didn't give her any hugs or show any signs of affection (which she ALWAYS did) and kept asking when she was leaving. sad

Me and DH have speculated about what could have possibly happened down there to make her so anxious and fearful of going there. Would just one incident of discipline could have done this though? DH did confront his Mum and asked repeatedly if something else had happened, and she insists absolutely not. DD is quite open with us, and says that its simply because she misses us/home/the cat/the hamster...

I know that we cannot know everything that's gone on. Was there an incident that MIL handled all wrong, and is too embarrassed to tell us? Maybe, but considering how hurt she is, I would've guessed that she would 'fess up to try and put it right.

All of us staying over together would be tight. my MIL lives with her long term partner of 10 years (Who DD always has had a fab relationship with, and knows him as her Grandad) - She hasn't got an issue with him.. Just my MIL. Space there is limited. Although I could suggest it and see what happens. As for FaceTime, MIL is technologically unable, and DD won't speak on the phone to her.

knickernicker Fri 06-Sep-13 18:24:56

I think you need to gradually reintroduce her to nanna but only once the anxiety has subsided. Chat about nanna in a low key way but no trips and no pressure.She has whipped herself up and its snowballed. She will also have picked up on the family's stress.

Use some common sense methods to reintroduce them eg. Initially let her hear you talking to nanna on speaker phone, then do something really fun together with nanna and so on.

Its not personal and dad and nanna shouldn't stress, just give her time.

Badvoc Fri 06-Sep-13 18:25:38

Why on earth would you force her to spend time with someone she fears?
Look, I think something has happened.
I am not sure that your mil would tell you if she had frightened or hurt your dd....it's so easy to say "oh she's just tired/it's her age/a phase"
Please don't dismiss your Dds worried.
If its nothing it will blow over.
If its not it will come to light eventually.

LEMisdisappointed Fri 06-Sep-13 18:38:37

Im sorry to say this but i think it is really unsettling for her with all of these sleepovers. Can you or your DH review your working hours? She is very young to be sleeping away from home - i know my argument will be sniffed at but she maybe just needs some security.

Andro Fri 06-Sep-13 18:39:11

Would just one incident of discipline could have done this though?

I doubt it; some sulking and 'I don't wanna's' maybe, but not wetting herself fear.

I'm with Badvoc here, something has happened (directly or indirectly) and now your DD is in a bad place emotionally. Trying to force matter will do 2 things:
1. make her fear worse
2. make it clear that you and your DH won't listen to her when she needs you.

Shesparkles Fri 06-Sep-13 18:43:21

In the short term, can nanna come to sleep at your house? If dd's on her own territory, depending on how it goes, you might be able to work out if it's nanna, or if it's the being away from home?

When I was around this age - perhaps even a bit older - I developed a real fear (from watching the news and listening to radio traffic reports) that my parents would get murdered or killed in a car crash.

I remember being babysat by my great aunt one night and just being hysterical until very late that something would happen to my parents. I couldn't tell anyone because I knew it was a bit silly and they'd tell me it was unlikely - but I'd realised that it wasn't impossible and there was no guarantee, and that's what freaked me out.

Could it be something like that? Can anything have spooked her with regards to your or her safety when you're apart - something on the news, something that happened to a friend or friend's parents?

It sounds like it's the absence of something at MILs rather than the presence of something (eg. MIL herself!) that's upsetting her, from her comments. MIL shouldn't take it personally or let it upset her. She's an adult, DD is 5!

I think she needs some space from the whole thing to be honest. Give her a break from all the sleep overs etc.

Kids sulk, kids get clingy but they DO NOT wet themselves in fear for no good reason. Please put aside your trust for your mil and gently talk (when she's responsive and with no pressure) to your dd and try and find out what happened. Probably something utterly trivial but to her it's very real.

MajesticWhine Fri 06-Sep-13 18:52:10

I don't think you should force the issue, or ask her to go there by herself. It might be inconvenient, but I'm not sure that it needs to be quite so devastating for you all. Why is MIL crying about it? that sounds like a bit of an overreaction to be honest.
The way you respond to this is key. As someone else said, she will be picking up on all the stress and upset this is causing, and this won't help things return to normal, if they are going to. It is hard to say if something bad has happened or not, but I think you have to take her seriously and listen to what she is saying, and make other childcare arrangements as necessary.

kasbah72 Fri 06-Sep-13 18:56:46

Is there any way your MIL could come and stay at yours on Saturday night? Or perhaps another night when one or both of you are also home so you can all be there together? That way she isn't away from home, she can separate out the difference between being 'away' at nanna's and spending time with nanna.

It sounds horrendous for you all and of course the first thought is that something awful has happened. I do know that kids sometimes get totally irrational fears, though, that are hard to manage. At least having mil to stay will help see if the problem is with her or with being to far away.

kasbah72 Fri 06-Sep-13 18:56:55

Is there any way your MIL could come and stay at yours on Saturday night? Or perhaps another night when one or both of you are also home so you can all be there together? That way she isn't away from home, she can separate out the difference between being 'away' at nanna's and spending time with nanna.

It sounds horrendous for you all and of course the first thought is that something awful has happened. I do know that kids sometimes get totally irrational fears, though, that are hard to manage. At least having mil to stay will help see if the problem is with her or with being to far away.

PrimalLass Fri 06-Sep-13 18:57:13

My 5-year old can take great offence at the smallest thing, and it can break her heart. She is very sensitive. When my parents were just about to separate the atmosphere in the house was a bit ropey and something minor happened (shouting at the dog) that really that put her off her grandad for a while.

I think Shesparkles's idea of trying a Nanna sleepover at your house and see how that goes. Just a short term fix that may lead to DD being happy to stay at Nanna's.

I agree that something must have happened, however small. I hope everything gets sorted out soon.

NeoMaxiZoomDweebie Fri 06-Sep-13 18:58:35

Could it be that she's anxious in general? Starting school can cause all kinds of upset....if she was attending a childminder's home, then she could have just the same reaction....she may be worried/stressed about the changes in her life.

AnotherStitchInTime Fri 06-Sep-13 18:59:04

How about MIL looking after her at your house for a while?

It could be a strange noise or light at night in her room there that has frightened her and nothing actually to do with your MIL. It could also be misplaced anxiety related to starting school if she is going into Reception.

Start off rebuilding their relationship by getting MIL to look after her during the day at your house with you there and then not there, then progress to evening babysitting and over night at your house. If something else has happened it may come to the fore during this time.

Then once she is happy with MIL again you could try a few hours at MIL's house and see how she goes.

AvonCallingBarksdale Fri 06-Sep-13 18:59:08

OP, please do not make your DD sleep over there if she doesn't want to. I would agree that something has happened and your MIL may not want to say, or may see it as insignificant, but it clearly isn't to your DD and she's the most important one here, not your DH or MiL getting upset. Don't show DD that her worries are unimportant by making her do something she's clearly upset about.

exoticfruits Fri 06-Sep-13 19:03:25

I would have MIL over to babysit during the day while both you and DH go out- that way you really will know whether it is because she misses home.
She is staying with your parents when you are not there because it is 'near home'- therefore it should follow that she is happy at home without you.
If that still upsets her there is more to it.
MIL in tears is a bit OTT- she is the adult.

Tabby1963 Fri 06-Sep-13 19:08:31

Like MackeralofFact's childhood experience, I too at a similar age watched a film on telly Carve Her Name With Pride which gave me nightmares of a long time because I thought my mum would die by firing squad like the woman in the film. I would wake up screaming and could never tell mum why I was so upset because it would make it real. Bizarre. I still cannot even contemplate watching that film again. sad

Purpledatura,I wonder if your daughter has somehow associated her last time at Nanna's with something else, a bit of news, or a telly programme, and this has upset her. The fact that she was upset enough to wet herself tells me that she is not attention seeking, but really distressed. So sad for everyone.

AFishWithoutABicycle Fri 06-Sep-13 19:15:44

Whether its because of real or imagined her feelings are real. She wet her self with fear so I think you have to take her seriously. But I think there is more to the storey.

Lovecat Fri 06-Sep-13 19:18:01

The incident where your MIL sent her to her room - what were the details of this? Did she shut the door on her to keep her there? I'm asking because DD suddenly got really screamy about having her door shut and about a certain family member. It turned out that when the family member was babysitting she had sent her to her room, shut the door on her and held it shut. Apparently she freaked out and the door still wasn't opened (don't get me started) because this family member took it into their head that 'she had to learn' angry.

It took a long time for her to trust them again and she still won't have her babysit (and tbh neither will we).

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