Stranger Anxiety in Children

Stranger Anxiety in Children- Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Stranger anxiety is an uneasy feeling in a child's mind when meeting someone new
Stranger anxiety is an uneasy feeling in a child’s mind when meeting someone new

One thing that almost every parent experience in their life is their little baby feeling hesitant to get to the relative’s arms. It is very common for babies to feel so. While it may be the wish of every friend or family member of yours to put your child in their arms out of love, the anxious nature of your baby may stop this. Stranger anxiety is the term used for such behavior in a baby that eventually fades away as a child grows. This condition is not born by birth and you will notice it also. But, as soon as your little baby feels an affection for you (parent) which normally occurs when he gets 6 to 8 months old, he can get anxious while you pass your child to someone else’s arm. This thing can become even irritating when you’re busy or when you need some resting time. To clear all your doubts about this strangely normal problem, we have covered every common aspect about stranger anxiety.

What is stranger anxiety?

Stranger anxiety is a fearful feeling in a baby when getting to the arms of someone unfamiliar
Stranger anxiety is a fearful feeling in a baby when getting to the arms of someone unfamiliar

Stranger anxiety is the term used for a baby who feels uneasy and fearful when getting to the arms of someone unfamiliar. Stranger anxiety is completely normal in general and is often looked as a milestone in the development of a child. Stranger anxiety is a part of baby’s development stage.

Stranger anxiety typically emerge when a child gets 6 to 8 months old. It’s effect however vanishes out as the child keeps growing and learning about the outer world. A child with stranger anxiety feels internally that their relationship with their parents and caretakers is different from the relationship with other people. This feeling reaches it’s peak when a child is 12 to 15 months old making them feel distressed while around unfamiliar people.

What causes stranger anxiety?

When a child comes in contact with someone unfamiliar, he feels distressed causing stranger anxiety
When a child comes in contact with someone unfamiliar, he feels distressed causing stranger anxiety

Stranger anxiety is a common appearing threat that is actually a part of child’s growth process. This anxiety develops when a child reaches the age of around 8 months. The development of a child is actually quite significant during this period. The child learns to identify objects and people. They assume an object permanence making babies believe there’s an object or person even if it’s not. The baby can differentiate familiar and unfamiliar faces.

A child at such age cannot identify where you have gone or when you will come back. He/she will assume you as someone unfamiliar if you are not visible to him/her daily. They get an understanding that the parents and carers are unique people. When they come in contact with someone unfamiliar or get separated from their caretakers, they feel distressed. This distress, however, wipes away as the child keep growing and develops a knowledge about people around. Stranger anxiety in babies lasts normally till 2 years only.

Symptoms of stranger anxiety

Stranger anxiety causes stress in babies that they express in different ways
Stranger anxiety causes stress in babies that they express in different ways

Stranger anxiety creates a fearful feeling in the mind of a baby or children when they see someone who they do not know. Different babies may show different signs to express their distress since they do not know how to communicate. They may be distressed when around family members or babysitters they do not know. A baby may create anxiety for a person whom they don’t see frequently and express it uniquely.

Freezing in the arms of an unknown is one way to express their anxiety. A baby will give frightening expressions with a still face. The baby may start feeling comfortable in their lap or further show their distress with an obvious option of crying. Some babies show their discomfort by clinging tightly or by hiding their face in your chest. The way they react to such anxiety may depend upon various personality factors like their temperament.

The symptoms of stranger anxiety begins when a baby is around 8 months old and stays till the toddler phase in over which is completed by age of 3. Normally, a toddler learns to feel comfortable around people. But, in rare cases stranger anxiety can last longer making it a matter of concern. Stranger anxiety can make a child socially anxious. Such child feels embarrassed around strangers and experience sudden anxiety rise when exposed to social situations. Such anxiety may last for over 6 months and can make a child avoid social interactions in total.

How to treat stranger anxiety?

Stranger anxiety can be a matter of worries sometimes which can be treated with simple methods
Stranger anxiety can be a matter of worries sometimes which can be treated with simple methods

While stranger anxiety is completely normal and is looked as a milestone in a child’s growth process, it may seem to upset parents. The sobbing nature of your baby can actually be frustrating especially when you are busy. Stranger anxiety in babies is at it’s peak when he/she is 12 to 15 months old and vanishes gradually after that period. If you are still worried about such behavior of your little heart, you can use following methods to treat their distress :-

Make your child familiar with the babysitter

If you have appointed a new carer or babysitter for home, it will not be recommended to leave your baby right away. Instead, choose a slower approach to make the baby familiar with the babysitter. Don’t go away right after the babysitter arrives. Call the carer at least an hour earlier. Greet the person so that your baby can think he is someone to trust. Play good activities with the carer with your baby around so that he can feel comfortable. Give the caretaker time to interact with baby while you are there. Slowly leave them alone. And, go out simply with a goodbye kiss, nothing more. Make sure that your baby is not hungry.

Let others know about this anxiety

One thing that may happen that when your friend or relative takes the baby in their lap and the baby starts showing the symptoms of stranger anxiety by crying on in other way, they feel offended or insulted. That’s a usual reaction. One thing you can do right then is to make them understand what stranger anxiety is. Educated them stranger anxiety is a common thing and is a part of a child’s development process. Let them know that this condition fades away after a certain age. Also, tell them the ways such that they can make your child feel comforted.

Let your baby see more faces from an early age

One thing that you can do to make your child feel more comfortable while interacting with unfamiliar faces is to expose them to new people from an early age. Keep in mind that infants may be too early to be exposed to new people, so consult your doctor first. Let them see unknown faces while you are also present. You can find different opportunities to let your baby see more humans. Take them to the park while strolling. Let them observe the human activities going around. Interact with the friends, smile and make your baby get comfortable.

Stay calm and positive

Symptoms of stranger anxiety in a baby are enough to make parents feel anxious also. Their fearful behaviour will make you get stressed and you will be worried and overwhelmed. But, you should stay calm. Instead of yelling, try to please your calm verbally and physically. Say happy songs to them. Play daily games with them with the company of that other person. And, don’t consider this stage a matter of concern. Accept it as a part of child’s development. Remain calm yourself, take a deep breath and don’t get stressed.

These are the few tricks that you can follow to improve your child’s ability to meet strangers. Along these methods, keep these little things in mind:-

  • Introduce your child with strangers at home first.
  • Take your baby’s toy or blanket while meeting with new people.
  • Hold your child’s hand while he is meeting new person.
  • Don’t push your baby to meet new people if he/she is not ready.
  • Let your child do some things for himself, like playing with toys.

Stranger anxiety is an overrated threat that should be treated as a part of child’s growth only. It can looks like a serious thing when a baby don’t feel like good while getting to the arms of someone new. This annoying thing goes away with time in most cases. However, if this continues beyond a certain age, it can become a disorder. One thing parents should remember that they should know about their toddler’s anxiety. And, you can also follow the above tips to treat stranger anxiety.