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6 year old DSS suddenly petrified of staying at his grandparents' house.

(2 Posts)
eslteacher Tue 27-Sep-11 20:45:25

Hello all,

I wanted to ask for some advice/opinions/theories about something happening with my DSS (6).

So we all live in a country where it is very common for children to spend significant portions of school holidays with their grandparents. My DSS has one set of grandparents (my DP's parents) who live on the other side of the country. Since he was about 3 he has spent 2 - 3 weeks with them every summer, and often another week or two with them in one of the other school holidays.

Anyway so all has been fine for years with this arrangement, he's seemed to enjoy going, no complaints, had fun etc. His grandparents are lovely people, I've only ever witnessed them being great with him, they organise activities for him while he is there etc etc.

Then, earlier this year he went to stay with them in the Easter holidays, perfectly normal. But from the moment he arrived, he suddenly started begging her not to leave, saying he didn't want to stay, he was "scared". Obviously she tried to get out of him why, but he wouldn't elaborate much. She was in two minds whether to leave him or not (after staying one night there herself) but having no other child care possibilities she went ahead. Apparently afterwards he was fine during the day, but every night before bed he would get hysterical and say he was scared. According to him, this is because he sleeps alone on the top floor of the house (the GPs sleep downsairs) but even after his grandmother moved to sleep in the room next to him, the nighttime hysterics still continued albeit at a lesser level.

When DP and I went to pick him up at the end of the stay, we witnessed no problems, just normal problem-free bedtimes. When we asked him if he had been OK, had he been "scared", had something happened he just wouldn't really talk about it except to say "I get scared on my own at night".

Since then, whenever it has been suggested that he might go and stay with his grandparents again, he gets very angry/upset and says he doesn't want to go because he is "scared". He says he is scared because he doesn't like sleeping along upstairs at night, but after it's been pointed out that a) he does that at home anyway and b) his grandparents can sleep in the room next to him, he just continues being very upset.

So...I'd appreciate any advice/opinions on what might be going on here and how to proceed, given that none of us are getting anywhere talking to him and he is not usually a hysterical child AT ALL he is very easy-going and tantrums are quite rare. My theories include:

a) Something happened - either big or minor - the last time he was there with one of his grandparents that for some reason scared him, but he surpressed it or won't articulate it

b) It's because he's older now and more aware of what's going on in his life that he doesn't like the idea of being at such a long distance away from his mum and dad

c) He really has just developed an irrational fear of sleeping in that particular bedroom on his own

d) His mum is really exaggerating his hysterics - possible because I've never witnessed the extremes that she supposedly has. But I don't think this is likely because I completely trust his mother, she is a good person and it makes no sense for her to sabotage such a great child-care arrangement that really works for her.

Thoughts? Suggestions?

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 28-Sep-11 06:55:55

My DS went through a phase, about that age, of not liking to go upstairs to bed on his own. (We live in a fairly standard 3-bed semi... not a mansion with creepy wings and attics, I should add.) I had to go with him, turning all the lights on and close all the doors on the landing in case 'something came out and got him'. Once in bed he was fine. I put it down to them developing a vivid imagination at that point... maybe helped by a spooky episode or two of Doctor Who. Ironically, he had no such qualms about being in other people's homes.

Assuming that 'not visiting' isn't an option, I think you have to help him work through the fear. Try to pin down what exactly is scary, offer things like night-lights etc. Is he still scared if you stay at grannie's house with him?

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