How long will my baby be anxious around strangers?

A baby, until the age of six months or so, usually is content to be held by relatives and family friends. She may even smile and play when her parents place her in someone else’s arms. But between seven and nine months, she’ll begin to resist people other than her parents, and may cry and reach for her parents when someone else tries to hold her. During this stage, she may even feel anxious about her grandparents and familiar baby-sitters.

Such reactions, which are a normal part of a baby’s development, result from her growing awareness of the world. She recognizes her parents as special and different and views them with pleasure. Because she has good feelings about them, she wants to be with them and isn’t as comfortable or trusting with other people.

Also, at this age she believes that something exists only as long as she can see it. When her parents walk out of sight, she feels anxious and cries. When she’s back in their arms, she feels pleasure.

This developmental stage can be difficult for parents because it sometimes causes embarrassment and makes it hard to accept help with childcare. A relative or friend, offering to care for the baby, may feel rejected by the child’s anxious cries. Some adults blame the parents, saying, “You’ve spoiled her by holding her so much!” Or they may try to persuade the baby to come, saying, “I won’t hurt you. You have to get used to other people”.

When your baby enters this developmental stage, remember that anxiety about strangers and separation is normal. It isn’t necessary to force her to go to other people—she’ll soon do that willingly. Just try to meet her needs and have others talk to her and play with her while you hold her. You can explain to people that, while you understand their feelings of frustration and rejection, you know that your child is acting as most children her age do.

During this stage, many babies have trouble separating from their parents at day care or when a baby-sitter comes. Explain the situation to your caregiver and let her know that your baby may need extra holding and comforting. If your child cries as you go, you also may find it hard to separate. Have your caregiver try to distract her. Call shortly after leaving if you’d like to reassure yourself that all is going well.

At times you might be tempted to leave while your baby is distracted and unaware that you’re going. While this eliminates the initial rush of tears, she may react with surprise and fear when she discovers you’ve left. It’s always better to say a quick good-bye.

You’ll know that your child’s fear of strangers and separation is lessening when you see her reach for someone other than you, and when you see her go happily to someone who’s reaching for her. As this stage passes, she’ll once again feel more comfortable and content with others.

Picture Credit : Google