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I posted this on another board and only got one response. I really need some advice, I'm not sure at all how to handle this. I haven't posted much here on MDC but have gained much wisdom just by reading through many threads here over the last few years. So, here goes.<br><br>
My DD Evie has had random anxiety issues since she was 2yo. She turned 4 in February. One thing that has persisted since the summer that she was around 2.5 is this complete fear of my grandma. Seeing her sends Evie into hysterics. It is very embarrassing and I don't know what to do about it. It started out as being a general fear of the elderly (she would start hysterically screaming and crying when she saw an elderly person no matter where we were--the grocery store, etc.) That gradually stopped as did most of the other things that caused the same reaction but she still reacts the same way when we see my grandma. I honestly think that it has persisted because my mom has pushed her to say hello to my grandma at holidays and family functions (which are not all that often--maybe once every few months) and my mom BRINGS IT UP in front of Evie and tries to address it with her. The funny thing is that my grandmother is so NOT pushy. She had 12 children of her own, and has mentioned to me numerous times that she "had a few like that." She is a sweet woman, 86 years old and really I don't know how much longer she will be with us. She never gets in the kids' faces or pushes them to say hello, hug her, etc. She totally "gets it" that kids go through phases like this. I think that she thinks Evie's issues are just general fears and I don't think she has any idea that Evie is so scared of her in particular.<br><br>
My mom thinks that I should take her to nursing homes to get her more used to seeing elderly people and that we should visit my grandmother often. My grandma lives 45 minutes away and her house is not an easy place to bring a hysterical 4yo and a 2yo. My mom really, really wants me to proactively "work on this" with Evie. I think she is hurt and offended that Evie reacts this way to her mom. I also think that she is preparing herself emotionally for when grandma will die and she wants to feel like we all made as much of an effort as we could to visit her. (She is not sick with anything specifically that leads us to think she only has a certain amount of time left, but it is clear that her body is wearing down. Last month she was hospitalized and we thought that she wasn't going to make it but she pulled through. So we really don't know how much time is left.)<br><br>
So I really don't know what to do about this. I thought about getting some books from the library and trying to talk through it with Evie, but all along I have felt that calling attention to it will make it worse. I did actually just try looking up some books through our library site and on amazon and came up with NOTHING that fits this scenario. We just saw my grandma a few weeks ago at a family function in a restaurant and it was a disaster. We will be seeing her again this Saturday at a family party at my parents' house. Ahhh, I don't know what to do. All suggestions welcome!
 

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Children's feelings and/or intuition need to be respected. Your dd feels this way FOR SOME REASON. Whether or not you know the reason, and whether or not it would make logical sense to your adult brain. It makes sense to her 4 yo. brain, and you need to respect that, as hard as that may be for you.<br><br>
Has grandma ever babysat your dd? I'm wondering if something happened while she was babysitting her that led to this reaction. (But even if grandma has never babysat her, you still need to respect how she feels.)<br><br>
And you have to GET OVER how your mom feels. She had her chance to parent. This isn't about her.<br><br>
Tell your dd that you respect how she feels. Don't guilt trip her. Tell her she won't have to sit on grandma's lap, or even talk to her if she doesn't want to. Just knowing that you "have her back" so to speak may cause your dd to relax a little more around grandma.<br><br>
I'd also suggest you read the book <span style="text-decoration:underline;">Protecting the Gift</span> by Gavin de Becker.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for your quick reply! Grandma has never babysat my kids. In fact, barely anyone has ever babysat them, LOL. My DD has always been very attached and honestly my kids are rarely without me. I own and have read Protecting the Gift. This fear popped up around the time that my DD went through a phase of being terrified of pictures of faces that she perceived as scary. That eventually stopped, as did being afraid of random elderly people. She will smile now when they say hello to her when we are out. I truly don't think anything happened specifically to make her afraid of my grandma, except for my mom trying to "fix" the problem.
 

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My daughter is younger, so my advice may be off. But I have found that she's more able to face her fears and things that she doesn't want to do if I accept that she is afraid and doesn't want to do it, and tell her that she doesn't have to. So basically, I agree with you that your mother is not helping the situation.<br><br>
For example, she was waking up in the middle of the night every night and coming into our bed. This was annoying to me, as I like my sleep and she would wake me up and want to play and talk for ages. Plus, I had a baby who wasn't sleeping through the night yet, and that extra wakeup from her was putting me over the edge. And every night as I put her to sleep she'd say "And when I wake up, I'll come to the Momma bed," and I'd say "Oh, but you have such a nice bed here! Look at all your friends you have to sleep with. And it's such a pretty big girl bed!" Don't get me wrong: I'd never prohibit her from coming into bed with us... I was just trying to talk her out of it! And then as soon as I started saying "And when you wake up, you can come into the Momma bed," usually even preemptively to her saying it, she started sleeping through the night. I think that she knew I was trying to dissuade her and that made her even more worried that I wouldn't be willing/able to snuggle with her. And then as soon as I made it clear that she was ALWAYS welcome, she lost the need to be there.<br><br>
And 4yos are smart, and your DD may be thinking "you know, I don't like this. And the fact that grandma is acting so weird just confirms my suspicions that gray hair is WEIRD and WRONG." Or whatever her issue is: who knows what goes on in the mind of kids. Personally, nothing you said rang alarm bells about abuse or anything that Protecting the Gift covers. Kids have weird ideas about things sometimes. Who knows where they come from. I mean, old people have a tendency to get really close to little kids' faces at the supermarket and pat them on the head and say "well aren't you adorable!" and I'd probably develop an aversion to any segment of the population that did that to me.<br><br>
So my guess is that this is more an issue about your mother than it is about your daughter. I don't think that your daughter will go through life being afraid of the elderly. I think that having your mother try to "help" will probably prolong this. I would really work on your mother to back off. Do you think your grandmother would be able to talk to your mother and tell her to back off a bit? Your mother might be willing to listen to her mother. Try to get other family members involved too: if she has 11 brothers and sisters, hopefully at least some of them have kids and recognize what's going on here!<br><br>
I'd also do whatever you can to make your daughter comfortable: bring along her favorite toys, comfort objects, whatever. If you mother mentions that, just give her an icy glare. And I'd make it clear to her that she has to be polite, but as soon as she says hello to her great grandmother she can go and play.<br><br>
Good luck! That's a tough situation all around. I do want to add that I think your mother's heart is in the right place. She probably loves her mother dearly, and thinks she was a good mother and a good grandmother and is hurt that your daughter seems adverse to her as a great-grandmother. But I do think she's going about the situation all wrong.
 

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I would bet that if you can get your mom to back off, things would get better. In fact, you can tell your mom that you've read that kids often go through these types of phases and forcing them to "face their fears" makes it worse. You can say this because I just typed it and you just read it <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/winky.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="Wink"> Kidding, but I use this kind of thing on my mom all the time. Also "her pediatrician said so" works really well.<br><br>
My daughter has had a few weird and totally unexplained fears pop up from time to time and the ONLY thing that works is just ignoring them till she's either forgotten about it or she gets curious and decides to have a closer look. She's four. If there were something or someone who REALLY scared her, trying to make her deal with it would just prolong the misery. If I back off and let her check it out in her own time, she usually gets over whatever it is.
 

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Can she tell you what she's afraid of? I know you don't want to push her...but if you notice her being anxious (not a full blown attack obviously) maybe try to ask what's so scary?
 

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Could you try to desensitize her by having a nice picture of your grandmother somewhere, where she could get used to it? How about a little homemade book about your grandmother, showing her when she was a child, doing various things at different stages of her life. Or, tell her some stories aboutnyour grandmother when she was a little girl. When the time is right, maybe just take your daughter for a breif visit without your mother present, and your daughter could be free to intereact at her comfort level while you visit with your grandma. Maybe bring a specail toy that she gets to play with while you visit? It may help to generate some positive associations for your daughter to grandma. Keep the visit short, sweet, and leave on a high note.
 

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my DD developed a weird fear of older/elderly men starting when she was 7-8 months old? To the point of hysterically crying if one was in the room or seated near us in a restauarant, etc including her 3 grandfathers. They would all have to hide in another room when they came to visit for like 6 months. She has outgrown it for the most part, but still is not crazy about any of the grandpas and has to be cajoled into kissing and hugging them. I'm hoping she grows out of it someday. No advice really, just commiseration over this weirdness.
 

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Having gone through a similar incident of an apparently "irrational" fear in a rather sensitive 4 year-old with a family member, and a similar situation where we were completely sure that it was not a fear based on any kind of physical or emotional abuse of any kind, I think it would be best for you to really tone down these visits with grandma. I believe strongly that it is important to show your child that you trust his/her instincts. Yet at the same time, I know that kids occasionally have fears that are based on what to us seem like really insignificant reasons. If it is important for your DD to get to know her great-grandma, I think that you will need to go very SLOW in order to respect your DD's feelings. I disagree with your mother that she should be forced to overcome her fears and I do not think that you should attempt to visit your grandma with DD yet. Taking her to visit a (local) nursing home might not be a bad idea, though, in case the fear is based on something related to aging. Is your DD able to explain her fear at all? In our case, the child was unable to explain her fears even though she was very verbal about her feelings otherwise, but talking about it matter-of-factly and in a respectful manner, and at the same time allowing her to avoid the person triggering the hysterical fear, seemed to allow her to gradually process her feelings. If you can find opportunities to casually allow your DD to be in the same room with your grandma but without direct interaction (like at family gatherings where there are a lot of other family members around that your DD is comfortable with), that may allow her to gradually acclimate and to allow her rational mind to see how kind your grandma is and to master that irrational fear, whatever it might have been based on. You can gradually move closer in proximity to your grandma, still without direct interaction, so DD can observe from a "safe" distance.<br><br>
Obviously you'd need to discuss a strategy with your family members, including your grandma (at least enough for her to understand why DD is "avoiding" her), and your mom needs to be told not to force the issue with DD. I would definitely not force your DD to greet/hug/kiss, or even talk to your grandma right now and instead just work toward being in the same room calmly-- maybe starting at the opposite side of the room.<br><br>
FWIW in our situation we used the above strategy, and eventually the child seemed to totally forget that she'd ever had such a strong response to that person (after over a year of an intense fear!). Good luck!!!
 
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