The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:
I’m a woman in my 70s. I want your advice about my grandson, who is a second-year student in junior high school in Fukushima Prefecture. After the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent nuclear accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, evacuation orders were issued and his family had to move five times in one month.
My grandson, an only child, entered an elementary school in the prefecture, and there was nobody whom he knew in the school. He was not able to bring the school things prepared for him from his house.
He used to live in a large house, but we moved to an apartment unit that had two rooms plus a kitchen with a dining area. In addition, his mother had to live apart from his family for her job.
Later on, his family built a house near her workplace and moved there, leaving his father behind. In the aftermath, his father moved to the house.
In the new house, my grandson has his own room, but he sleeps together with his mother in beds that are next to each other. He fears the dark and always keeps the light on. Even when some of his friends come to visit him, he does not use his room, but studies and plays with them in the living room.
I’m worried that he still is sleeping together with his mother. I don’t know if it is OK if this situation remains unchanged.
J, Fukushima Prefecture
Dear Ms. J:
It is desirable for a second-year junior high school boy to sleep alone. Although there are differences in maturity of school age children, boys at this age will develop secondary sex characteristics sooner or later.
If there are enough rooms in a house, a child should sleep alone. At least, a child at this age tends to avoid sleeping together with a parent of the opposite sex in the same room.
Of course, that’s nothing more than a general opinion. Your grandson must have been terrified by the disaster and had hardships in his life as an evacuee. He must have had sadness in his heart. He could be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. It may be a good idea to consult with a medical specialist at a local social welfare and public health center or a psychosomatic physician.
Before doing so, I think your grandson’s parents need to recognize his problem. Living in a harsh environment, in which your family members were forced to live separately for some time after the disaster, it might have been a natural thing for mother and son to sleep together.
However, over the course of time, in light of the child’s growth, your grandson himself might have noticed it is not natural to sleep together with his mother. But he cannot stop doing so as he fears the dark. He may have dual hardships in this sense.
I advise you to frankly speak about your worries to the mother of your grandson.
Masami Ohinata, university president