Full of giddy anticipation, my parents flew across the continent. Delayed flight.. Bad food.. Fear of flying.. they did not care. They were seeing their grandchild and it was her first birthday.
Upon their arrival, the birthday girl took one look at them, her lower lip curled, eyes welled up with tears, and she began to bawl. It did not get any better during the two weeks they spent with me. I could sense their disappointment, but they kept saying, “Don’t worry. That happens.” She spent most of her birthday clinging to my leg and avoiding all of the guests. Birthday cake …forget about it..she wanted nothing to do with it.
I knew she was at the peak of stranger anxiety and there was no way around it. During this phase, a kid feels that mom and dad (especially mom) are their safety net. Anybody else, she feels, is someone who can take their parents away from them. From a child development perspective, stranger anxiety signals the beginning a basic understanding of relationships and family. The more she sees someone on a regular basis, like a nanny or grandparents, the less anxiety she will have to them.
But what do you do when family members visit? Or at birthday parties? The key is to understand the child’s plight. You are her safety net. So reassure her that you will hold on to her until she feels safe. Ask your family members to not talk or smile or gesture to the child, until she is ready to look and talk to them.
If you are always entertaining people at your home or meeting friends for playdates with your child, she will probably develop less stranger anxiety. Having bad stranger anxiety does not mean your child will be an introvert for life. Lastly, remember, this phase will go away around age two on its own. All she needs is reassurance of your presence and your love.
Did your little one have any stranger anxiety? And what did you do about it?
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