While some toddlers are willing to greet anyone with open arms, others shy away from anyone other than mom and dad. It can be challenging to deal with a tyke who seems fearful of everyone, because relatives and friends may feel slighted by this hesitancy, and the toddler herself may appear to suffer extreme emotional distress. Although it may seem a serious problem, however, stranger anxiety is often nothing to worry about and is, instead, simply a part of normal child development.
Stranger Anxiety Recurrence
For many toddlers, stranger anxiety is a recurrence of behavior they previously exhibited during infancy; most infants go through a period of shying away from strangers. Moms often assume that, after this period has passed, their child will no longer be fearful of strangers. However, as WhatToExpect.com reports, stranger anxiety commonly reappears between 12 and 24 months of age, once again presenting a challenge to parents.
Some parents feel that if they socialize their children, or avoid sheltering their them, they can prevent stranger anxiety. While this may work in some cases, in most instances, stranger anxiety is unpreventable. If your toddler suddenly becomes hesitant to approach strangers, it is not because you have done something wrong, but instead is a result of the developmental stage that she is currently in.
When your toddler exhibits stranger anxiety, there are some things that you can do to help alleviate his fear. WhatToExpect.com recommends that parents should try to remain within arm’s reach of their anxious child, because doing so can be very calming. They can also verbally reassure their child, reminding him that everything is okay. A few kind words or a simple touch on the back from Mom can do wonders when it comes to putting children at ease.
Helping Adults Deal
Stranger anxiety may not impact only the toddler, but also adults who are upset by the toddler’s sudden hesitancy to approach them. If a relative or close friend is suddenly shunned as a result of stranger anxiety, you may need to reassure the adult, telling her that your child is going through that phase and that it isn’t just her that your child is fearful of. You may also want to warn these individuals ahead of time so your child’s cries or eagerness to return to Mom’s arms don’t come as a shock.
Stranger Anxiety and Abuse
As iParenting reports, many individuals have long believed that children who suffer from stranger anxiety must have been the victims of abuse. While it is possible that an abused child would be fearful of strangers, there is no reason to believe that an outside source has led your toddler to shy away from strangers. Instead, remember that the fear of strangers is perfectly normal and, in most cases, is something that your child will grow out of in time.