Some children go through a phase where they are afraid of strangers. They sometimes even start crying when someone that they have seen before starts talking to them or comes too close to them. Some parents are worried that their child is developmentally behind when their stranger anxiety is too bad. However, having some stranger anxiety is a normal part of growing up for most children.
In most cases, children begin to have stranger anxiety between the age of 6 months and 1 years old. The brain’s development is said to be the cause of stranger anxiety. When babies begin to be able to differentiate between people they see a lot (like their mom and dad) and people they do not know, they often start crying when they see people they do not know. Some parents may begin to worry when they see children who are happy around all people and do not have stranger anxiety but understanding that stranger anxiety is a part of brain development should make them feel more comfortable.
Although there may be no need to worry since having stranger anxiety is said to be a part of development, most parents want their child to be happy when interacting with others.
When children have stranger anxiety, they question whether they should go close to a stranger or not. Children trust their parents. Therefore, it is important for parents to explain to their children that the people they are going to meet are not strangers but instead friends of their parents. If children see their parents talking with “the stranger” first, they will feel more comfortable being around him/her.
Children often observe and judge the surrounding environment based on how their mother acts. So even if your child is crying because they are afraid it is important that you act calm and continue with what you were doing. If you stop and ask them what happened they are more likely to panic and cry even more. It is important that moms stay calm whenever possible.
Some parents with children who have stranger anxiety try to encourage their children to have more independence and step away from them. However, it is important that parents are protective of their children and show them their love until they are 2-3 years old. Children become independent and start doing things on their own naturally if they have the love and support of their parents at a young age.