Let’s get this out of the way: My dad is a great guy. He doesn’t meet strangers. He has one of those laughs you can hear even in a roomful of laughing people.
Naturally, my 15-month-old son is terrified of him. On our last trip to visit my parents--unlike all the other times they'd met--my now15-month-old son shrieked every time Granddad drew near.
Admittedly, my little guy looked warily at everyone. He has only met them a few times in person. But he saved his loudest yelps for the 6’2” mustachioed man who I look a lot alike. Dad took it in stride, but I was at a loss. For the briefest moment I considered covering my father in my son's favorite food (strawberries) to see if that would break the ice.
But I’ve studied up and discovered that I’m not alone. Here are some things I’m going to try:
- Video chat: My son looks at pictures of his faraway family all the time. But hopefully seeing and hearing Granddad regularly will help break the ice.
- Ease in, repeat: I’ll hug my father first, to show my son that he’s a friend. Then hand one of his favorite toys to Granddad as a lure. I’ll repeat this step as needed until my son is comfortable.
- Be prepared: My son smiles at strangers on the subway, so it never occurred to me he would have trouble warming up to my family. But next time, I’ll know better. Also, I’ll stop telling people that he smiles at strangers on the subway.
- Have hugs ready: When he’s scared, I’m his oasis. Nothing solves a problem like Daddy Hugs, right? And yes, we can leave the party for a while so you (and I!) can regroup.
- Chill: My son is 15 months old. It’s natural for toddlers to be leery, especially of those with deep, booming voices. This too shall pass.
Hopefully the next time we see my folks, my little guy will warm up to Granddad’s embrace. But I'll have some strawberries with me. Just in case.
What relative did your little one fear? How did you help him or her overcome it?