Don’ t leave me with this stranger!
Corri developed a special relationship with Great Grandma, even though it was a rough start with stranger anxiety at 7 months!
I took our oldest daughter to see her Great Grandma when she was about 7 months old. My Grandma was so excited to hold her great-grandchild. I was ready with the camera, and then Corri burst into tears screaming as I handed her over to Great Grandma. I felt terrible, and my Grandma felt worse. But, this was totally normal behavior for a baby at the 6 to 9 month age. Stranger anxiety and early separation anxiety begins when your baby is developing object permanence. We all have played the “dropping game”. Your child drops something from the crib, or the high chair, or the car seat and then wants you to pick it up. This is how a child learns that the object, even though it is out of their view, is still there! As this object permanence develops, your child soon learns that you are somewhere else when you are not in their view…so they cry when you leave a room. Between the 6 and 9 month age, babies often cry when a “stranger” picks them up, because the stranger is not Mom or Dad. They don’t have a mental picture of who this person is. This will often happen even when your child has seen or met this person several times.
So what do you do to help your child, and Great Grandma’s feelings?
- If you know that your child is struggling with stranger anxiety, warn family members or friends that you are visiting that your child may be a bit clingy in the beginning.
- Introduce your child to “new” people slowly. Don’t let people “swoop” in and take your child from your arms. Hold your child as the “new” person gradually approaches your child. Never force the issue.
- Sometimes introducing your child to someone “new” is less stressful when you are sitting on the floor engaged in a play activity.
- Remain in the same room with your child until your child appears more comfortable.
- Show your child pictures of family members, try skyping with family and friends before your child goes for a visit.
- Play “peek a boo” and “Where’s baby?” to help your child develop object permanence.
- Never sneak out when you are leaving. Always say an affectionate good-bye, and tell your child you will be back. Then have your care giver get your child involved in an activity. If your child cries, wave good-bye and then leave quickly, don’t get emotional. Most children settle down in a short time. I often would call minutes later, and the screaming child I left would be happily playing by the time I left the neighborhood!
- When you come back, greet your child and say, “See Mommy and Daddy came back!” Separation anxiety decreases when your child trusts that he or she will know when your leave, and that you always return.
- Remember children have different temperaments! Other siblings, cousins, or friends may warm up to strangers and separate easier than your child. That does not mean you have done anything wrong, it might mean you have a “slow to warm” or more “cautious” child. It takes all types of temperaments to make this world a great place! Embrace who your child is and work with the positives and negatives of all temperaments. More to come on THAT topic later! 🙂
Corri soon sat happily on my Grandma’s lap, and with a little bit of patience and frequent visiting was able to develop a special relationship. To this day, she has fond memories of Great Grandma, and a little statue that my Grandma gave to her that Corri would carry around off her coffee table. Working through stranger anxiety and separation anxiety is a developmental skill that your child can tackle with your help. No worries!
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.