When you have children, it's important for you to monitor how they react to members of your extended family. Ideally, there will be a close bond between everyone, but you may sometimes notice that one of your children seems afraid of a certain family member. Children won't always divulge their reasons to you — they may not feel comfortable with sharing what is causing them to experience this fear—but this doesn't mean that you should ignore it. If this situation is present in your family, it's worthwhile to have your child talk to a therapist who works with children. The child may open up and reveal many different reasons for this situation, including the following.
Abuse Or The Threat Of Abuse
One of the many reasons that your child may be afraid of an extended member of your family is that there has been either an instance of abuse or the threat of abuse. For example, perhaps the child's aunt and uncle were babysitting him or her and spanked the child. If you don't believe in spanking your children, this act could be very upsetting and scary to your child — so much so that he or she might not want to tell you about it. The child could constantly feel as though another spanking could take place, thus leading to being afraid around this person.
Although you never want to think about someone touching your child inappropriately, the reality is this happens to some children. It's not always a stranger who is the perpetrator, either. Some children end up being victims to members of their own extended family. This is a highly delicate subject, but your child will hopefully feel comfortable bring it up in the safe environment of a therapist's office. Although therapy sessions are confidential, you can expect the therapist to report this incident because he or she has a professional obligation to do so.
Relationship With You
It's also possible that you could have a strained relationship with one of your extended family members that makes your child feel uneasy. Even if you haven't outlined the nature of the relationship with your child, children can often pick up on tension between adults. The child may feel that if you have your issues with the other person, this makes the person a bad person — and someone to fear. Your child may grow to be nervous around someone even if this person has never done anything to deserve it.
Contact a counselor, like those at The Center for Family Counseling, Inc., for more information.