Dear Dr. Archer,
My 12-year-old daughter has terrible anxiety about sleeping and staying in her bed at night. She often ends up on my floor or in bed with one of her sisters. This is the way it’s always been.
I thought she’d outgrow it, but she hasn’t. Her response, when asked why, is simply, “I hate being alone.” I am at a loss. What would you recommend we do?
This is concerning at age 12, and this needs to be fixed now. First, you must question your daughter closely and make sure at some point there was not a traumatic event that occurred when she was alone. If so, this must be addressed.
A healthy family, whether with a single parent or married parents, should always have healthy boundaries. There should be a separation between the generations in order to maintain a balance of power and appropriate intimacy. This is not to restrict love between members, but rather to allow parents to share and benefit from mature adult intimacy, while fostering parental affection to the children. These boundaries should not be blurred or crossed, or the marital relationship will suffer.
When your child comes to you in the middle of the night, she is seeking warmth and reassurance, and she needs it at that moment. Get up, and bring your daughter back to her bed. Tuck her in, talk softly, and offer words of comfort. Perhaps read or tell a story and give her a favorite stuffed animal to hold. You can lie down next to her and offer your physical closeness and touch. Encourage her to think positively about how much she is growing and all she can do — anything to make her feel empowered. Stay as long as you wish, but then return to your bed.
Repeat this routine as long as necessary. She will learn that her room is her own special, safe place. She will soon develop a sense that she can take care of herself and she is growing up strong.
If needed, set up a positive reinforcement system. If she sleeps in her bed all night, perhaps she can read a book in bed before it’s lights out. Maybe she could stay up 30 minutes longer each night, get to go to a movie, or have a girl friend sleep over on the weekend. Anything she really enjoys could be considered a reward.
To have a healthy, well-adjusted 12-year-old daughter, you need to see to it that she’s able to go to bed and sleep through the night on her own. Be loving, gentle and nurturing, but also firm. Children will get away with anything they can, but it is up to the parents to enforce what is best for the child. Good luck.
Dear Dr. Archer,
Several years ago, I hired my mother-in-law at my place of employment, and I am her supervisor. Things started off all right, but I always felt responsible for her. When she was neglectful in her duties, I would try to shield and make excuses for her. The few times I actually performed my responsibilities and corrected her, she would retaliate and say things that would be very hurtful to me.
I became so cautious of her feelings that I stressed myself as to how to make her happy. Meanwhile, other co-workers became very agitated with me. They realized I was bending over backwards for my mother-in-law and saw that she seemed to always get her way.
Well, I finally had enough. I decided not to put up with her abuse and lack of regard for my feelings. I also decided that I was not going to allow her to control or manipulate me anymore. But now she not only doesn’t talk to me, she makes me out to my husband’s family to be the bad guy who’s picking on her. I hate that I am in this situation, but I don’t know how to resolve it. If it weren’t for me she would be unemployed. I don’t really know what to do, and honestly, she has zapped my energy.
Please tell me how I can handle this situation properly.
I am assuming your company doesn’t have an EAP (Employee Assistance plan) in place, or a Human Resources guide on how to handle this type of situation. If so, I’m sure you would have already followed company policy.
So, here’s what you need to do. First, you must tell your husband exactly what’s happening at work. Inform him of the fact that if his mother’s performance doesn’t improve, she will lose her job. He needs to understand the problem and that you are counting on his support as well as his family’s support.
Next, you need to review your mother-in-law’s job description thoroughly. Make a list of her duties and the expected performance in meeting your company’s standards, and be sure to provide her with her own copy.
Next, set a meeting and review her past performance with respect to these standards. Be sure to include the good along with the bad. Give concrete examples from your list on what needs improvement. Tell her you will be monitoring her and that you expect her to improve immediately. Have this meeting with her at work, and explain exactly what the deal is in a calm, professional tone.
Try to finish the meeting on a good note by giving examples of what she does well. Tell her the two of you will meet again in two weeks to review how things are progressing. Have all of this documented in writing, and have her sign the paperwork acknowledging what you have discussed.
After that, it’s up to her to show improvement. If she doesn’t, make sure to document the shortfalls in writing in order to review with her in two weeks. Explain that if there is no improvement by then that you will be reporting this to your boss and that her job will be in jeopardy. Good luck.
Dr. Dale Archer is a board certified psychiatrist who founded the Institute for Neuropsychiatry in Southwest Louisiana. He is a frequent guest on Fox News, CNN Headline News and other national TV programs and the author of the New York Times best-selling book Better than Normal. Visit him at DrDaleArcher.com.