I'd heard of stranger anxiety long before I had my own child. I always assumed the children that suffered with it hadn't been socialised enough. Now I have Noah and he is going through it I now realise how presumptuous and untrue that opinion was.
They say stranger anxiety develops from around 6-12months old but Noah started showing signs as young as 3 months old. We could be at someone's house and he would be fine sat on someone else's knee. He would be smiling and babbling away and then the next minute be screaming hysterically. Red in the face, tears streaming, the works. As soon as he was back in my arms he would instantly stop crying and nuzzle into me. When it first started I found it very upsetting and I didn't know what to do.
As time went on he would have days were he wasn't so bad and we would think he was overcoming it but then the next day it would be back to square one, if not worse. It has made socialising with other people a struggle and a constant worry as I am always thinking "Please don't cry, please don't cry". It's so difficult cause I don't want Noah to become upset but at the same time feel awful for the family members who are just trying to bond with him and all he wants to do is cry. It's also hard because family and friends aren't getting to see the real Noah. They see him upset and stressed. I once had a comment on how he is "whiny" he is which really got to me as he isn't at all, they just see his anxiety. That isn't who Noah is, he is such a happy and easy going baby who is really coming into his own at the moment. I think that Noah also picks up on that negativity and that can make everything worse.
When the stranger anxiety begun my Mum would often keep him in her arms whilst he cried and at the time I didn't like it. I wanted to comfort him myself but in the long run this was the best thing as he is now fine with her. My Mum is one of the only people Noah is fully comfortable with other than Nick and myself but it took a while to get there.
After reading up on stranger anxiety and receiving great advice from fellow Mummies I have found it has really helped. I feel confident now I know why Noah is crying and have learnt some things that can help in different social situations.
- Keep the TV on. This helps us so much as having a little bit of background noise seems to help ease Noah. If everything is silent and then there are people being loud or brash and in his face then he is going to have a meltdown.
- Sitting on my knee. This eases Noah into these different social situations and new faces. Once he is comfortable and smiling I know he is feeling happy. He then usually feels confident enough to be in the arms of others.
- Toys. Having toys to keep Noah entertained helps him feel calm and cheerful. They are also great as it's a way for others to be able to bond with Noah and helps him warm up to them.
I think the term "stranger anxiety" is a bit misleading as it's not only occurs with strangers but it can be with family members too. The term also makes it harder to explain to relatives because as soon as you mention "stranger" it can upset them as they aren't strangers at all.
At the moment Noah is doing really well and has a few days where he has been great with other people and hardly cried at all. We are staying optimistic but we know that it could all change.
Did your child suffer with stranger anxiety? Do you have any tips you would like to share?