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Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

From the Tales Inbox: Fixing a Family Member Phobia

My 2 year old daugther is frightened of my brother-in-law.

It is a recent event. He broke his ankle in the last few weeks and has a cast on it and walks with crutches. She has never been super outgoing to him, but now she won't even look at him and clams up and snuggles into our shoulders. She sometimes starts shaking.

I am not as concerned about it as my husband it, but would still like to figure out what to do. She had her b-day party this last week so he kind of layed low, but we have another family gathering this week and I don't want him to have to be secluded from her. We are not sure what to do and I have asked around and looked online, but am not sure how to handle it.

Anyone have any suggestions?

A Confused Mom


  • When my youngest dd was a baby she had stranger anxiety of just about everyone outside her immediate family. Our doctor told us that we shouldn't avoid "strangers" (which were actually family and close friends), but also not push people on her. I would say continue to do things as you have been doing them, but don't force her to spend time with your brother-in-law either. She'll outgrow it soon.
    posted by Anonymous MKC at 7/03/2008 10:09:00 AM  

  • My son does things like this often. He is very cautious. I'm interested to read the comments. One thing I've noticed that helps him is if I were in your shoes, I would make sure I didn't stay away from my brother-in-law. You and your husband are the example, so if you hug your BIL as usual and converse with him, be around him like normal, then your child will eventually see that everything is cool. She may not warm up quickly, but at least she will observe you loving your BIL and being physically comfortable with him.
    posted by Blogger beth at 7/03/2008 11:28:00 AM  

  • Not to scare you or anything, but is there a possibility that there is a real reason she's scared? ie., some abuse that has gone on that you don't know about? Kids usually have really good reasons for avoiding people.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 7/03/2008 12:15:00 PM  

  • I was terrified of a certain uncle when I was younger (probably about age 6?). I was shy anyway, and he was a huge tease and would also try to tickle me mercilessly. I avoided him at all costs.

    I would think the 2-year-old might just be reacting to the crutches (?) but don't force her to be around him without you, and also don't make too big a deal of it and embarrass her.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 7/03/2008 04:43:00 PM  

  • I think you need to realize that it could be 1) no big deal, or 2) he has abused her.
    Right now you don't know. You need to operate under the assumption that either of these scenarios could be correct.
    How well does your two year old speak? Have a conversation? Answer questions?
    Do you feel comfortable talking to her about it? Try listing "Things I don't like that people do." I'll go first. "I don't like it when Daddy yells." Your turn. "You don't like it when.....Cousin Johnny takes your toy." Then when it is her turn again, try giving her the uncle's name and see if she can come up with something he does that she doesn't like.
    You may never know for sure. But I would carefully pursue discussing it with her. If you get professional help (might be a good idea) make sure it is someone who is cautious and doesn't push her to say something happened that never did.
    Never, ever let her be in a room where he has access to her. You can't change what might have happened in the past, but knowing her current reaction to him, you have to know that it is a possibility and prevent anything else from happening.
    Be careful about accusing him. You can keep your daughter safe from now on, without hurting a possibly innocent family member. You can treat him well and fairly, even if you never know for sure.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 7/04/2008 11:48:00 PM  

  • Years ago my son was petrified of my neighbor. We realized it probably was because that the first time or two they "met" was outside and he had his bike helmet on. So it scared the little tot. I wonder, like anon said, if the crutches/cast has had the same effect on your child. Our neighbor was so kind and understanding and tried to ease the fear by giving him a little gift of some hotwheel cars. To let my son know he was an ok guy.

    It may take a little while, but I bet it'll subside. Maybe cover up the cast (have BIL on the couch with a blanket over it). Or let your child see you and other people she trusts give BIL hugs or be friendly, etc. Hopefully he doesn't take it personally and understands it's just a kid thing.
    posted by Blogger Katie at 7/07/2008 06:49:00 AM  

  • I'm puzzled with lots of exercises. I was afraid I could not do the right time despite my hard work. I need a support person.
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