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Trying not to get frustrated...

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  • Trying not to get frustrated...

    Lately my daughter (4+) is saying she's too scared to be in any room by herself. I know that at her age her imagination is blossoming, so I can understand that aspect of it. There's lots of noises and one trigger is our lights flickering when the heaters come on. So I get it. Its a big scary world. But I'm afraid its getting out of hand.

    If I am playing with my son (2+) and she wants another toy that is in another room, she won't go get it. If I tell her she will have to wait then, since Mommy is in the middle of a game with Sebastian she freaks. Tears, crying that she's too scared to go by herself, etc. I offer her comfort (snuggles), then I go for distraction. Nothing calms her. She eventually gets herself so worked up that its nearly impossible for me to continue playing with my son and I have to focus on her.

    This carries over into so many other things too, and she does it with her dad as well. If my son says he needs to go potty I scoop him up and run to the bathroom, with her screaming behind me because I left her in the room by herself. If she's at the table and I need to use the restroom, she loses it.

    I have tried explaining that sounds can't hurt us, that the reason the lights flicker is because of the heaters which I even demonstrated.

    I also showed her that since our house is so small, no matter where you go in the house Mommy can hear and I went through the house singing songs, which works half the time.

    So I'm thinking it's not really fear, but a way to get attention? I've gone into 'scared' vs 'lonely' and told her that if she just wants to be with me, that it's ok. There's times I don't want to be alone either.

    She's starting to pass it on to my son. We'll be doing something and she'll say "but he'll be scared" to me, then look at him and basically try to convince him he should be scared. So I spend the next few minutes reassuring him then forget what I was trying to do in the first place.

    I've tried sneaking out of the room while she's engrossed in something, but she panics and starts yelling. I've also told her that mommy and daddy would never leave her anywhere that is dangerous, that our home is safe. That other people have feelings too and sometimes we have to be with her brother. I've described the difference between needs and wants. (She wants a different toy, he needs to use the toilet).

    Our priest is going to come bless the house, but other than that, I don't know what else to do. This has been going on for months, and I'm afraid to just let it play out.

    Anyone have similar experiences? Advice?

  • #2
    this too shall pass...

    I can very much empathize with your situation because my daughter went through a similar phase after she suddenly began visitation with her father. Admittedly, several things were different...she was only 1-2 years old at the time (so much less expectation of independence), largely pre-verbal, and there was a definite trigger for her behavior...but the result was basically the same -- she could NOT be left alone for even a few seconds, even if I was 15 feet away -- and the frustrations were similar.

    I actually took her to a psychologist at 15 months old, and she was diagnosed with early onset separation anxiety disorder. I would imagine that your daughter would fit a lot of the same diagnostic criteria, and if you have the insurance/resources, it might help you to take her to counseling. There wasn't much the therapist could do with mine because she was so young, but she could definitely give yours an opportunity to talk out the fears she is having, and give you some more ideas of how to deal with it.

    I will say that my daughter is a different child now (just turned 3). It DID pass, and I'm sure yours will, too. I do think the best thing that I did for her is to respond with sensitivity...assuming that her fears were valid, instead of that they weren't...but I KNOW how difficult that is when you know there is nothing to fear. The types of things that I did, that I think helped:

    Move slowly. I simply got in the habit of not darting in and out of anywhere...if I was going to get up and walk away, I did slow casually, calmly, slowly. This helped to keep her calm, too. In our case, it was important when something happened or someone approached the house, like the doorbell ringing, which is what triggered her panic. And the automatic reaction for me would have been to jump up, too, if it was unexpected, but I had to resist that. It may mean bringing your toddler's potty into the room where you are playing, whenever possible, things like that.

    Communicate constantly. In the same casual, calm manner, I told my daughter everything I was doing. Even if it was something she really didn't need to accompany me for, I gave her the option of coming. "I'm going to the bathroom, do you want to go potty, too?" "I'm going to check the mail, do you want to come?" "I'm going to get my screwdriver from the closet. It will only take a second. I'll be right back, okay?"

    Anticipate triggers. My daughter freaked out when cars approached our rural acreage, so I kept an eye out for cars, and if there was one coming, I made sure I was relatively close to her. I made sure that whenever she felt that moment of panic, she could just look up, and I would be there, calmly. In your case, that might have to do with the strange sounds and lights flickering, although they are harder to predict. I also made a game out of triggers, like watching for cars and then waving 'hello' to them. Have you taught your daughter the 'marco-polo' game? Perhaps you could come up with ideas like that, giving her ways to communicate with you throughout the house, and you do it for her, too, so that she knows that you are always concerned with where she is, too.

    Most of all, don't force it. If my daughter didn't want to be away from me, I never left her. Even when separation was unavoidable (visitation, in our case), there were certain things that I kept absolutely constant...she took comfort objects with her, and a picture of her and me together. I made sure it was always HER leaving ME, and never the other way around. I would stand in the same spot until the car was completely out of sight, so that as far as she knew, I would be right there when she got back. Letting her gradually separate on her own terms, she has developed normal 3 year old indepedence. She will choose to go somewhere with other family members, choose to stay in the living room while I get laundry out of the dryer or check the mail, etc.

    I know it feels ridiculous to treat a child that you know is capable of fetching a toy from the other room like an infant, but I have watched it with my own eyes...AP works. Convince yourself that something REAL happened to create this fear in your child, and that she will be the most emotionally healthy adult if you let it play out naturally. It won't last forever!


    • #3
      Thank you.

      We are definitely trying to say something before she gets scared, saying "oh, the heater just kicked on, did you see it?" and such.

      I guess my biggest fear is that if I let it run its course she'll become MORE afraid, but it seems that it will pass when she's ready.

      So how do I balance and meet the needs of my son as well? I feel like I'm constantly telling him he has to wait because of her. What if it damages their relationship as well?

      Thank you again.
      Last edited by katrina; 01-07-2011, 01:51 PM.


      • #4
        Separation anxiety

        I'm sorry for what you are going through. My daughter just came out of a period of separation anxiety and it was exhausting. Sounds also scared her.

        I just tried to embrace what she was going through. I offered cuddles when needed. I slowed down a lot and gave her lots of attention at times I knew were the worst... When she woke up or when my husband got home. I never snuck out of the room but always told her where I was going and talked as I went. I hope this lessened the anxiety for het two year old mind. Who knows.

        It sounds like younger doing all that you can. Being at peace with it yourself may help as I'm sure she picks up on your anxiety as well.

        I think lots of loving attention will help the time pass. I only have one child, but I'm curious how much time she gets just one on one with you? I wondr if that would help?


        • #5
          My husband and I try to be sure they both get some one-on-one time with both of us every night, but that doesn't always happen.

          I keep reminding myself to be patient, that I'm the grown-up and I should act like one.

          I guess I need to trust my instincts and know that if I ever feel there's a point where its getting out-of-hand that I'll know it.

          Thanks everyone! It really does help to know that others have been through it.


          • #6
            Similar situation

            I am also frustrated with my almost 4yo. She absolutely refuses to do anything in another room unless someone is with her. She tries to convince her 2yo brother to come with her, and usually that works, but it is starting to take a toll on my sanity. She would rather pee her pants than go to the bathroom on her own, even if all the lights are on and I am in the kitchen next to the bathroom. She is afraid of slightly darkened corners in the daytime and anything remotely dark at night. The panic attack that ensues if I leave her down a level when I go up with her brother is beyond crazy. She even sits on the floor of the bathroom while I am working on potty training the 2yo (kind of distracting to a kid who is figuring out how to poop on the toilet!).

            Oddly, if I am standing in her doorway she will fall asleep in her own bed, but by 1am she is back in my bed. This from the kid that slept through the night (11 hours) in her bed on her own at 18mths. I try to wake up enough to transfer her back to her bed, but it only lasts a few hours, then everyone is awoken by the screams as she has a panic attack running to my room.

            To top it all off, my son is going through some sleep issues too, so I am getting no sleep, which does not help. It gets worse when I let them stay in bed with me, as they feel the need to press against me. And neither has done well with the sleeping bag on the floor option.

            Any suggestions for the sleep part and/or the going into another room even if the light is on? It is really driving me bonkers!


            • #7
              Trying not to get frustrated...darkened corners, toys, Not wanting to leave Mom

              I am sorry my computer is not giving me what I need to really make sense here.

              So if this is combined (and I think it will be) my apologies.I read everything and remember what points I can address (I think!)

              So for the darkened corners: Go and sit in one. Next time take her by the hand and invite her into your lap. If she won't go, then invite her brother. Simply sit, snuggle, hug.

              One thing my son taught me is that he doesn't know the LANGUAGE I understand for what he needs.

              For months, he was asking to go HOME. He even cried, a long time, about it. I didn't get it. I asked him several times where home was (we were sitting in it according to my definition). he didn't know, he didn't know, he didn't know. A few months ago, he was able to piece together that HOME was in my LAP! Oh what I wouldn't give to just hug and snuggle him all those previous times instead of being upset that he wanted something I wasn't providing! (and I wasn't - I just didn't know it).

              I comfort him when he is upset most times. People think I'm really weird that I would get down on his level in public and just hug him - for not getting what he wants! most times he's okay, but the occasional - tired, hungry, angry, lonely - kicks in, and he wails!

              another room: gonna sound off the wall I'm sure, but here it shouldn't be too bad ; ) Get a carrier. Your daughter may be 30 pounds like my son, or 50. An ergo would probably be best for a 5 year old. Carry her for short periods each day. That's about the only thing I can think of to relieve the anxiety. Anxiety for her is very real, and very confusing, because she SHOULD be able to do things for her self. SHOULD is something we shouldn't use on our kids, but do.

              On your back, on your belly (she might be too tall for your belly), and then graduate to piggy back rides.

              You might even be able to start off with - OH HEY! YOU WANT A PIGGY BACK RIDE TO GET YOUR TOY?

              And it might save you, your daughter, and the rest of your family all that time and energy spent on a tantrum/anxiety attack (because that's what it sounds like) and have a more peaceful time.

              It might not.

              There is a website out there for sensitivities. I just tried to find it on my computer (heck I just printed the list today!) but I can't locate it. Sorry. Aged computer. But googling sensitivities you should be able to come up with the list pretty easily. message/mail me through this thing and I'll try to find it on my lappie if you're still interested.

              I am admin the list to my son because he has issues with loud noises. thunder. trains. (we're between about 10 intersections of 4 rails! He even reacts to the faint ones. He loves trains. Go figure!) dogs barking. (thank you dear neighbor!) He is JUST NOW starting to tolerate RAIN. without a raincoat. With a cold coming on. UGH! he despises baths. I have to warn him sometimes DAYS in advance we're going to get a bath (because yup, I'm washing his hair by hand!) He has his own 'tub' - a plastic tub I'm not thrilled with - but he'll get in it now and at least sit in the water and play for 10 minutes. Saves on water - sort of - he likes to run it a lot. And other quirks that make other people's eyebrows do a dance when he says something off the cuff.

              Okay, I had so many other thoughts I wanted to share with questions I wanted to respond to !

              Ahh, I know what I wanted to add:

              Part of this is growth spurt - when an infant/baby/child goes through a growth spurt - they LOSE some information they previously knew (like what Nana looks like - happened to my boy (Nana has 5 visits a year tops). Like his favorite cashier at the store visited at least twice a week.

              Part of this is nutrition: Your child's tummy gets fed 5-6 times a day (or mine should - he eats like a bird and usually when he wants). What you put in that tiny little belly for nutrition helps with memory retention. Healthy fats (omega3's, 6's, etc), or sugar? Veggies or carbs? Something or nothing? I try my hardest (and we are a sugar-free child house - we're working on the parents' attachment to sugar) to make sure Protein and veggies are top of the list - if not ALL the list - going into my babies.

              Gotta scram, baby in waiting!
              Last edited by Lizzie; 10-15-2011, 05:49 AM.