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.

lilithtime Sat 07-Sep-13 21:12:40

Have you read anything by Gavin de Becker? I read a book recently by him called the 'gift of fear', also a book called 'protecting the gift' about preventing kids from abuse and after having read your posts I strongly advise you to read it.

There are obviously some big warning signs here that something has upset your dd and it sounds to me like it may not actually be your mil that's the problem. What is her partner like? Does he ever spend time with dd? Does she ever say anything about him?

Trust your instincts.

purpledatura Sat 07-Sep-13 15:52:34

Wow. Sorry that it seemed like I've just ran off from this thread. I worked last night, took a peep at the comments and felt a bit intimidated about coming back! DD is happily at my Mum and Dad's now. She is staying there until I pick her up in the morning. She is overall very happy and enjoying life. I'm sorry if I came across as sounding like she was suffering continual trauma. It shouldn't have come out that way. I was anxious when I posted, because up until Thursday night, all she had said to us, was that she didn't want to sleep down there. I suppose DH dismissed it as just being her 'playing up' about us going to work. (Perhaps she was thinking if she refused to go; Mummy and Daddy would stay home etc) It was Thursday night when I mentioned it to DD, that she had the meltdown over it. When DH got home that night, I think I handled it all wrong and 'laid down the law' that DD was never to go down there again, and it escalated into us arguing over the fact the DH thinks I had instigated it all because I 'hate his mother' which is absolute nonsense.

MIL is a genuinely lovely and sensitive woman.
Like me, she is a Nurse for the same NHS trust I work in, and in the same division (LD) She has been there with her DP since the day DD was born. I have known them for 16 years (Been married 14) I know that she gets tired sometimes and may have shouted at or disciplined DD all wrong, but never once in 16 years have I seen her lose her temper, or even say anything bad about anyone. This has just made the mystery worse I suppose. My DH and his brothers had good childhoods.. Never saw anger or violence from his Mum or family.

As for those of you who are thinking the DH and me are going to 'force' DD into going down there and staying over, then NO! WE WOULD NEVER put DD in a position where she had to do something that scared her, regardless of what our needs were. It's just baffling where this fear has come from and she has suffered 'irrational' fears before (she went through a phase of being terrified of Television Adverts after seeing one with a dinosaur in..) The TV was permanently off for a year, and it's only improved somewhat since having Netflix, or watching Cbeebies or Cyw with little or no adverts) MIL knows of her little fears like this one and follows our lead in avoiding TV etc.

I spoke to colleague in work last night who worked in Children's Services (Mental Health) and she pretty much said what users knickernicker, MackerelOfFact and AnotherStitchInTime has said.

We are just going to go with the flow now. Let DD decide what she wants to do. She said it's fine for Nanny to come up and see us, and she wants to show her her new mermaid doll. She just doesn't want to go down her house - This makes us feel that there is something there or something happened there that spooked her. I've managed to swap shifts and jiggle my Off Duty so that she doesn't have to have to be looked after overnight. However my particular boss is pretty unforgiving with the Off Duty and doesn't really comply with the Family Friendly policy. Those of you with experience working in the NHS will probably understand this more.. The 'Needs of the service' doesn't include bending your hours to suit. But that's another issue entirely.

Thankyou to everyone that replied. I've read all of them, and everyone has given me good solid advice. I can just reassure you though, that DD has been shielded from our distresses over this. These conversations between us has only taken place when she's been at school, asleep or with my Mum. The only time it's been brought up was when we asked her what had happened to scare her and what she wants to do. We haven't persisted or probed her. We will just leave it at that for now. Thankyou again to all of you for taking the time to reply.

gretagrape Sat 07-Sep-13 08:50:27

I agree with Lovecat - you need to get to the minute detail of what's happened to make her feel like this. It doesn't need to be sinister to create an issue in a child's head - I was terrified of all men except my Dad for about 2 years when I was little all because I'd had a stethascope put on my chest by the doctor because I was ill. Literally, from that day on my Mum said I wouldn't let any men near me, including other family members. Nothing sinister had happened - it obviously just freaked my little mind out.

WafflyVersatile Fri 06-Sep-13 21:06:31

I think you are right to stop visits just now.

What has your daughter said about the visit that started this? Can you get you daughter to tell you what happened there from her point of view? Can you remind her that she can tell you anything and she doesn't have to keep any secrets from you even if someone asks and that it's ok to tell you if MIL was mean? How did she communicate to you that she only has a problem with your MIL and not her partner or the house?

How do you discipline her? Have you ever sent her to her room? Would that be seen as a harsh punishment compared to what she gets at home? Can you ask MIL exactly what she did and said?

propertyNIGHTmareBEFOREXMAS Fri 06-Sep-13 20:59:23

I think you need to look after your dd yourself, OP. There are clear warning signs here that you are inexplicably ignoring. She does not want to stay at MIL's house and you should respect that.

Svrider Fri 06-Sep-13 20:44:46

Does mil have a partner/ visitors op??
Do not make a 6yo stay somewhere when she is scared

Nerfmother Fri 06-Sep-13 20:24:20

I think it could be linked to starting g school. Is there any weird connection or link? Could granny pick her up from school and take her to the park then to yours?

Primadonnagirl Fri 06-Sep-13 19:52:13

Can I please caution against those who are telling your something definitely happened? The little girls fear is real but that doesn't mean something really happened. My dear little niece was exactly the same with my father which was heartbreaking for us. She also had to stay with us regularly..from an even younger age..because of my sisters working pattern. My Dad absolutely doted on her..he's a real natural with kids.but she absolutely turned against him.She would scream and hide from him etc. If I hadn't been present all the timehI would have suspected something too. It was absolutely a case of her separation anxiety fixating on him.She too said she wanted her own house etc. But I can say it stopped as suddenly as it started and they are now extremely close. The only insight she ever gave was he " made her want her own Daddy" and maybe that's whats happening here..her MIL simply "makes" her miss you

WiddleAndPuke Fri 06-Sep-13 19:50:24

I think you all need to get a grip and calm down!

You and your husband arguing? "Breakdown in their relationship"? MIL crying all the time?? Jeez. No wonder the poor little scrap is wetting herself, surrounded by such histrionics hmm

The ONLY thing she needs to hear right now is "Oh, you don't feel like staying at nannas? That's fine! Let us know when you change your mind".

Then drop it. Poor child.

Parmarella Fri 06-Sep-13 19:44:59

Something happened, not necessarily your MIl, but something did happen.

My DS, age 6, was once told by my mum's handyman that he would chop DS head off with his saw.

It was a joke, but DS was scared and cried.

Handyman turned ip next day with a bar of choc for DS and to explain it was a joke.

Anyway, things happen, best not to force it but get nanna over, and build up slowly. Let nanna figure out how to regain her trust.

Do listen to your child though , it is horrible if they are ipset and feel the grown ups don't take it seriously.

Curleyhazel Fri 06-Sep-13 19:41:00

Your five year old dd is obviously distressed by something related to her grandmother. Whatever happened when she was at your mil's house clearly matters to her and makes your dd feel very anxious (traumatised?).

I think it would be best for you and your dh to validate her feelings on this and give her a break from your mil as well as from the issue alltogether. If you continue putting pressure on her and making a big family drama out of this, she will learn that her parents fail to protect her from the things that scare her (mil in this instance). Her trust in you will (understandably) be shaken.

When the storm has settled, in a few weeks or couple of months, ask mil to visit you for a while and don't leave your dd alone with her in the beginning.

Tbh, I find it silly of your dh and mil to make such a fuss over this. They are the grown-ups and should be above feeling rejected by a scared and upset five year old child.

I actually feel really sorry for your dd sad.

Also, fwiw, I suspect your mil either doesn't tell you the full story or doesn't know it herself.

Please make your dd feel safe

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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