Anxiety about strangers
"Our 6 month old daughter has a bad case of stranger anxiety. She won't let anyone hold her but me or her father. She starts to scream if anyone else tries to hold her. Otherwise, she is a happy and playful baby. Is there anything we can do?"
"Our daughter was like that at six months too. She's a year now and is very personable. It's just a stage they go through. Give her lots of love and let her know you're always there for her and she'll be fine. (Enjoy it while you can! Pretty soon you'll have to beg just for a kiss or to hold her hand!"
"I never thought our son would let anyone except my husband or myself hold him. He would cry if even Grandma or Grandpa looked at him wrong. He is now almost 2 and has come a long way. He still has his moments (like with a sitter or if he's tired but I think the way we handled the situation is the reason he came around....Lots of love and cuddling and attention from mom & dad and never forcing him to go with anyone he didn't want to. Grandma understood!"
"Let her know you respect her feelings because they are real. If that `stranger' is your mother, let your daughter see you hug your mother. Do not press her into anyone's arms. Hopefully she will outgrow this. My daughter, now 16 months, behave exactly like you describe. By about 10 months or so she outgrew this fear."
"Maybe while you hold her, have the stranger talk to you and her as well. If she sees it's okay with mom or dad, she might be a little bit less apprehensive."
"Take your baby everywhere you go. Little by little, have a person play with your baby while you're holding her. Then move to handing them to a person whole your are there. And go from there."
"Six months seems to ba an age for that. When my son was 6 to 8 months old he wouldn't go to anyone, and if anyone said hi to him, he'd bury his head in my shoulder. Then within a week he was suddenly `Mr. Self-Confidence' and would go to anybody, no problem. Don't worry about it, and don't force her. Just be patient and stay with her during this stage. Give her the security she needs and when she knows
beyond a doubt that you're there for her and will always be there, then she'll be ready to reach out to others with confidence."
"Have you tried allowing her to get used to the strangers slowly, so she can take all the time she needs, letting her cling to you as much as she needs to? This worked with my son, whose curiosity always overcame the anxiety. If nothing works, know that `this too shall pass'."
"Our daughter was the same way - there were times when she'd barely go to her dad. She adjusted to certain strangers after many exposures with me around and no threats to leave her, etc. Things got better when she crawled, and much better when she started walking, for some reason."
"First of all, rejoice! Your daughter is exhibiting her ability to discriminate. Having 2 daughters of my own who experienced stranger anxiety in varying degrees between ages 3 to 18 months, of 2 things I am certain: This will pass (your daughter needs your unconditional understanding during this time); and with repeated exposure to patient and loving family, friends and sitters, the fear will diminish (on a case-by-case basis). Please remember that in a few short years you will be teaching your daughter that it is her right to refuse to interact in any way with strangers who cause her to be anxious. In the meantime, enjoy the exclusiveness of her love!"
"Our six month old daughter went through the same thing. We did not force her to go to anyone she didn't want to be held by. Now she is 9 months old and really enjoys being held by new and different people. Her grandparents are happy now too!"
"It may help to warn friends and family that she's going through this stage and to instead of trying to pick her up and hold her immediately, to take things slowly. By smiling at her or offering her a toy while she is on her lap, may help to break down her resistance. Eventually, she might warm up to them, but even if she doesn't, at least here is no bad feelings or fears."
"Respect her feelings. This stage will pass, but what she'll remember is that you take her seriously."
"My daughter was that way too. She just needs time to warm up. I just tell people to let her alone for a few minutes. To talk to her but no touching. After 20 minutes or so she is very happy to be played with and picked up by anyone."
"Enjoy her and offer others to play with her while you or dad holds her! Stranger anxiety is a healthy phase of development which means she is discriminating and making good attachments, so essential to her sense of security and self esteem. She will grow through it and given the ability to feel secure now, she will be able to move on with strength to the next phase of development!"
"Observe how other people approach your daughter. Many folks become so excited and over-eager at the sight of a baby that they run up, try to grab her and talk right in her face. We as adults would be very disgruntled at such treatment by strangers! Encourage anyone interested in seeing the baby to approach her slowly and gently, to lower their voices (if necessary) and to follow her cues. Don't allow others (even relatives) to grab the baby from you."
"Every child goes through this. Don't get frustrated with her. She is only 6 months old and needs you. Both of my boys went through this and now at 22 months and 5 years, they are well-adjusted and mannerly to strangers we introduce them to. Comfort her - don't scold! She needs you and you need to cherish that and nurture her through it. As my mother always says, `This too shall pass'."
"Don't push her and don't panic. This is what the older generation used to call `making strange'. Explain to people that it's natural for a baby her age and it's just a phase she's going through. She's beginning to recognize faces and put them in her memory. This recognition is confusing and scary for the baby but eventually it will become less so."
"Stranger anxiety is a normal part of growing up. It lessens with brothers and sisters around but if the baby is the first it can be difficult to get over. One thing that helped our first child get over this was to invite friends over on a one to one basis and spend time with you and baby, but don't force it, the baby will warm up in due time. Aunts, uncles and grandparents are nice to help with this. When the baby got used to other people we finally got to go out for alone time."
"I think we all have varying degrees of stranger anxiety. Some people can handle strangers better than others. Love her and give her opportunities to be comfortable in groups with people she sees often."
"Expose your daughter to as many people as possible. Let grandparents and friends hold her often. Give her to the friend, Then leave the room. Don't anticipate tears as soon as you hand her to someone."
"Why? She is six months old, a baby. Stranger anxiety is a sign she has bonded well to you. It can be a pain when they scream at grandma and grandpa, baby sitters, etc., but they usually out-grow it. Enjoy it while it lasts."
"We try to let our son warm up slowly to other people and let him stay by us as long as he needs. After a few minutes of calm conversation, he is usually willing to go to them to get a favorite toy to bring to us or back to our seat. After a bit longer, he will go to other people. He has cycled in and out of stranger anxiety at several points in his development."
"I'm no expert by any means, but I do have a suggestion. Rather than allowing someone to just pick her up to hold her. Put her on the floor and let her get exposure to this person so she can choose whether she feels comfortable with them. If she appears to be comfortable let her be picked up but if she fusses, don't force her to be held...put her back down. We adults assume babies want to be held, when in fact we just want to hold a baby in our arms. She'll come around in time. She's just very exclusive right now."
"It might help to give her almost constant tactile closeness to you (wearing her next to your body while you are active) until she resolves her anxieties. Keep exposing her to other people's touch while she is in your arms so she gains some familiarity with other's feel. Be reassured that her `connectedness' with you is far more positive than her `anxiety' is negative."
"It is very important that no one tries to touch or pick up your child until she has observed that person talking to you for awhile and there is an indication that she is comfortable around this person. Sometimes people are excited to hold a baby and pick them up or take them from their parent unexpectedly - without the cooing and playful behavior first - and the child's natural instincts tell her to cry to let mom and dad know that `she is in danger'. This is more likely to happen if the child is not often around people other than her parents. In any case, this is normal behavior and it is good to follow your child's instincts and take her back from the `stranger' if she is uncomfortable."
"Stranger anxiety is a necessary and beneficial stage of child development. Luckily your daughter can discriminate who the most trustworthy people are in her life, but, I know how limiting this can be for parents as my 7 month old has had stranger anxiety for many months. When we are around family or friends that I want my son to have a relationship with, I hold him, stand close to the person, often touching the person on the shoulder, smile and talk reassuringly to my son. He more than likely smiles back and is comfortable. Gradually, the other person can touch him and after spending time, my son will go to the other person for a short period of time. It has often been helpful for me to leave the room and allow someone else to focus their energy on my son. It is only when I return to the room that he cries!"
"Rather than trying to convince your child that the strangers are o.k., just accept that this is the way she feels right now. Explain to family members and friends that your daughter is going through a stage in which she doesn't want to be held by anyone else and ask them to please be understanding. Then, during the course of their visit, if your daughter decides that the strangers are, in fact, O.k., then it will be a pleasant surprise for everyone when she decides to smile and go to them. Remember, Mother Nature planned stranger anxiety for your child's protection. Respect it for that reason. It will probably pass sooner than you expect! In the mean time, enjoy this `special status' that you two have with her as parents."
"I'm sure most would say that it's `simply' separation anxiety and that this too shall pass. My 15 1/2month old still prefers to be held by his mom or dad; and as far as I'm concerned, it's A-O.K. I just keep reminding myself that unfortunately, this won't last long and that some day he won't need me to hold him as often. In the meantime, I haven't an ounce of fat on my left arm."
"That is just her age. She will out-grow that shortly. But for the time being, have someone else hold her while you are standing next to her reassuring her that it's ok. For a minute or two, if that is as long as she lets you. But increase the time, The other possibility is to just leave her with someone you trust. Without you there, chances are she will be fine."
"One thing that worked is to have a parent pick one or several of the child's favorite toys and `play' with the stranger. The stranger would `play' with these toys for awhile and then invite the child to join in. Soon, strangers only had to hold the favorite toys to be approached by the child."
"It is very important to recognize and accept that your daughter's fears are real. I believe it is a mistake to `pooh-pooh' these feelings or to force a child to get over it. She will inevitably get over it. In the meantime, you and your husband can help by being a positive, reassuring influence for your daughter which will build her trust continually. She also takes cues from you too. How do you greet and interact with others? Chances are that if you greet people warmly, perhaps with a hug, your daughter will begin to trust those that you are comfortable with. Above all, don't push her into a stranger situation that she's clearly not comfortable with."
"I spent too much time worrying about things that turned out to be short-lived `phases'. Our 14 month old is very independent but at several points earlier went through `clingy' phases, just as the books said she would! My view is that it's best to accommodate these phases and try to be there for her until this brief period passes."
"She needs you. Don't resist this need too much or she'll become anxious and want you even more. My 16 month old son has gone through phases from `mommy only' (to the exclusion of his wonderful daddy) to `I love everyone'. The `clingyness' passes sooner if you don't mind it. Be glad someone loves you and needs you so much! Many would envy you."
"It's just a stage. It is completely normal. Just hang in there and in a couple months, she'll be `Miss Social'. In the mean time give her a chance to warm up to others upon arrival, in your lap."
"Let the others work up the connection gradually and on her terms. She can show them toys, play `give and take' games with them, peek-a-boo, etc. Gradually the relationship will be built up to a `holding' stage. Would you let a stranger hold you?"
"Our 2nd son was like that. He would cry, even while we were holding him, if a stranger came too close. Fortunately this did not last long. I would suggest you have one person (a neighbor or relative) come over often to visit. Have them sit on the floor with you and the baby, and play with her toys at first. As she gets used to that person being there she may let them touch and then hold her."
"Don't worry! She will grow out of it. Right now you and your husband are her primary care givers and she knows that you will automatically care for her needs. She needs to cling to you now, it's part of her psychological development. However, if you want to use a baby sitter soon, I would suggest using the same person as often as possible to let her get attached and feel secure with that person also."
"This is very normal for this age. Baby now knows you and distinguishes between you and strangers. Don't push her, this stage will soon pass. Meanwhile, stay close at hand while others hold her for short periods."
"Try to expose her to more people than she can get to know (example: church nursery, etc.). Let her get used to them with you there and gradually remove yourself. Don't force her."
"No! This is a phase that a lot of babies go through. Just keep giving her the opportunity to be around other people and in time she will warm up."
"Yes - Wait! She will out grow it. This is very `normal' behavior for a 6 month old."
"Don't expect her not to cry at strangers! Her crying demonstrates that she is aware of you two as her parents and attached to you. Both my children went through this phase at about the same times (it comes and goes at different developmental stages). The hints I found most helpful in the long run were to hold the baby, look at the baby, then look at the other person to reassure the baby the person is OK. It helps, as does staying in the baby's direct line of vision. But don't push it - how would you feel if you were made to sit on a strange giant's lap or be held by a giant? Not good!"
"Expose her to more people and stay close by her. As time goes on, slowly allow yourself a minute in another room and return making each time a little longer. As long as she knows that you will return the more comfortable she will become."
"Try to realize that it is a normal `phase' that your child is going through. You can only try to help ease her out of it by encouraging independence and introducing people to her in her environment. When friends and relatives come to your home, ask them to play with her - without holding or touching her. With you close by, she will get the message that they are `Okay'."
"Accept your daughter for who she is. My daughter was the same. Now at 11 months she has just become very interested in others. I feel she is a sensitive, happy child inclined to observe before she interacts. These are wonderful skills to have. Tell grandparents and friends to be patient. The time passes very swiftly, I have found!"
"We had the same problem with our daughter, now 16 months old. I believe the problem was an extension of, or compounded by colic, from which she (and we) suffered for about 4 months. I virtually `wore' her like an article of clothing for 12 hours a day. Only her grandfather could occasionally comfort her and give me a break. By the time the colic was calming down the stranger anxiety set in. She was so used to me and only me by then that she wouldn't have anything to do with anyone else. We had already learned that she was sensitive to sudden noise, commotions or people, etc., so the whole family helped her by visiting one at a time for a few minutes every day. They sat beside us on the couch or lay with us on the floor, where we would talk quietly to her but made no attempt to pick her up or interact with her physically unless she initiated it. Gradually she warmed to one person, then another, and last of all her father, who had an awful time with feelings of rejection. I think her expanding ability to control her environment by crawling, walking, etc., was part of the cure (i.e. - she grew out of it), but I think the patient understanding of the family and our respect for her feelings was also a key. If we'd pushed her into new situations, forced her into other peoples's arms, I don't believe she'd be the friendly and intrepid explorer she is today."
"Whether this is merely a stage or a facet of her personality it's important to respect her obviously very strong feelings about strangers. Forcing her to go to them will only backfire - either she'll be more clingy or it will damage the trust she has in you as her protector. My 3 year old was like that too. I know it can be embarrassing in front of relatives and friends. Remember they are strangers to your child, and she needs you to be her advocate at this age, to respect her fears and make her feel safe in her world. My child is still wary of new people and situations, but I would rather have him that way than so open to our often dangerous world that he would be an easy victim. Once he decides someone is OK, he is perfectly charming, but he needs to make up his own mind."
"Bear with her - keep her exposed to people and allow her to set the terms of physical interaction. When she is comfortable, she'll allow others to hold her - Grandma included. My `mama's boy' is now off doing his thing 10 months later."
"My daughter and now my son both have stranger anxiety. I found that it improves as they get older. My daughter is now two and a half and she is still shy around strangers but does warm up to them after about 15 minutes to 1/2 hour. Let your daughter know you are still there for her but have someone else hold her for awhile. She will cry but if you and the other care-giver can tolerate it you will be better off."
"Have her astrology chart done by someone who can help you figure out what is going on."
"Let her be herself. If she doesn't feel comfortable with strangers - ride with it. Slowly when she can mature enough to see and handle the different situations with people she will see them for what they are. Forcing her to break the habit early could prolong her anxiety."
"You should feel complimented that your 6 month old daughter only goes to you two! It's temporary. It's very important to her that you lovingly hold her and comfort her at this stage. Abandonment is her biggest fear. Try taking her with you when you go out. You can trade off holding her. Love her and let her grow without fearing your absence."
"Be grateful. Our kid isn't scared of anybody or anything. She is always wandering off. It worries me to death."
"Let the baby decide who will hold her. Put her on the floor and she will go to others when she is comfortable with the idea."
"Try having people (potential baby sitters) over to your house more often. Let them play on the floor with the baby while you wander in and out of the room. More exposure to different faces might help."
"Stranger anxiety normally appears somewhere between 4 to 6 months of age. It peaks during the second year. It is related to the infant's inability to understand time perception when the parent is leaving the child with a stranger (baby sitter, day-care, with a relative, etc.) In order to mediate this reaction, it is helpful to play `peek-a-boo' and `bye-bye'. Some exposure to strangers is also helpful. It is also to slowly build up a baby's `tolerance' to a stranger by spending increasing amounts of time with that person. Start by holding the child and talking with the other person and slowly have that person interact with the baby. Always follow the child's cues, so as to not push too far too soon."
"It's a phase and she will grow out of it. When she screams - simply apologize to the stranger and don't force her. But I would have your regular baby sitter visit her more often with out you really going anywhere."
"Don't push her! She'll get over it. Ask your friends and family to approach her directly. If new adults sit quietly near by your daughter will decide they belong and will eventually make the first move. The key is letting her decide to reach out. This clingy stage is annoying, but she will be more secure later if you don't insist on separation while it seems so frightening."
"Introduce her to people gradually. If there are specific people, such as relatives, you'd like for her to become accustomed to, show her pictures of them and talk about them. Then when they're present it may ease her fear. If she's still afraid, don't force her, she's still young and you have plenty of time for her to overcome this."
"When mine went through that (at almost the exact same age), nothing worked. Relax though, it is a stage she will get out of soon. In the mean time you just have to pamper her and let her know she is secure with you - the stage will pass and she'll be more outgoing towards others. Don't force her - she'll grow out of it."
"This is usually normal, so let her warm up to people she doesn't know (you're her favorite!). Our son was the same way. When it happened over an extended period of time, we checked into his day care environment more closely. One caregiver was treating the babies very rough and would yell at them. When we switched day-care facilities, the screaming ceased (he even had screamed when other children approached him)."
"Respect her fears - let her see other people and babies but don't force them on her. Curiosity will win over fear when she is comfortable with them. Assure family and friends that her behavior is not personal."
"Hang in there with her and don't force her to adapt to strangers on your schedule. My daughter was the same way and still goes through periods of it (she's 9 months now). I have taken the stance that she will do things easily and naturally when she is ready and that the hard times will pass sooner than I realize. I strongly feel that if she learns trust and security early, that it will pay great dividends as she grows older."
"Follow your baby. It may not always be the people, it may be the environment. Does she react as strongly at home with strangers. I've found if I want my children to be comfortable with someone else at a strange place it takes several visits where I don't leave them, but play and show how comfortable I am with these people and in this place."
"Believe your child and accept here where she is at. It doesn't last forever, but she certainly has the right not to be held by someone she is not comfortable with. I feel more honored when my child acts that way than if they will let anyone and his brother hold them."
"Yes....Be patient. This is a very normal stage that all babies experience and eventually grow out of, and it tells you that they are smart enough to differentiate between unfamiliar adults and the people she loves and depends on most in the world. Your baby should be much more accepting of other people with 2 to 3 months (I know - it sounds like an eternity). Meantime, don't force it! Hold her when she is around small groups of people, take her to playgrounds and malls to let her watch, and have `play dates' with another baby her age (but don't expect them to interact yet)."
"Don't force anyone on her. Let her get to know these people first. It is a normal stage in her development and she'll come around in a few months."
( What advice would you most like to give about experiencing life with a new baby?"
Send your advice via E-mail to: Editor - BABY EXPERIENCE ADVICE )