Tips to handle your baby’s Stranger Anxiety
Does your baby cry when someone else picks him/her up? Do you feel it’s not normal for your baby to socialize with others around? It’s completely normal!!
Around 9-10 months of age, babies experience stranger anxiety, a fear of unfamiliar people around them. These can be anyone apart from their primary caregivers/ parents. Even a change in physical appearance of their parents can upset them, like dad shaving his beard or mom going for a very short haircut or maybe sunglasses. The same feeling kicks in when you leave the baby at daycare or under care of grandparents or nanny.
Baby’s emotions are maturing now, he/she understands that you are the one whom he can depend upon and feel safe around. She also now understands the concept of object permanence, that when someone or something isn’t visible, it still exists. When she was younger and you left, she didn’t miss you – out of her sight meant you were off her mind. Now when you’re out of sight, you’re still very much on her mind – which means she can miss you. And because she hasn’t yet grasped the even more complicated concept of time, she has no idea when, or even if, you’re coming back. Enter more anxiety. We need to understand and acknowledge these emotions that our baby goes through and help them to cope up with these and make them feel safe and loved.
Let’s look at few tips on how you and your baby can handle the separation anxiety;
- Explain to others - we should let others know that the baby needs some time to be comfortable around them, before they come close to him, or talk to him or try to hold him. Tell them it’s part of their emotional development and is very normal.
- Make the baby feel safe - If possible have the people come over home before meeting them outside. The reason being when meeting outside, the change of place and new people both adds up to anxiety for the baby. Home being a baby's safe place, we just need to handle his anxiety with strangers. Start ahead with meet and greet and normal conversation with guests and other people while holding your baby close to you or have him sit on your lap.
- Be Calm - We know that a clingy, screaming crying baby can take a toll on parents especially when with guests around. But it’s very important for us as parents to calm ourselves around the baby and focus on his emotions first (he isn’t well equipped to handle them on his own yet). Baby’s pick up cues from their parents, so if you are calm and confident, the baby will feel the same too.
- Wait for baby’s cue - Each baby loves to socialize and wants to know more about people around them but only when they feel safe. They will start giving signs of comfort, when you see them smile, make eye contact, trying to touch or raise their hands to be held.
- Validate your baby’s emotions - We all think that baby’s are too young to understand emotions or talk in such stressful situations and that only extreme steps are helpful (like scolding, taking them away from the situation, or forcing them to socialize) But THIS IS FALSE!! Baby’s pick up the emotions from the very first day of their birth, they understand you through your facial expressions and tone of your voice. Remember they are very good at observing and absorbing their environment. Hence, we should try to calm them down by assuring them we do understand that they are feeling anxious and not comfortable. Try “I know you are not comfortable being here with all other people, and that’s okay! They are here to take care of you, they love you too. Let’s try to know them”
- Sweet and short goodbye - If you are leaving your baby at daycare or with someone esle while you are away for some work, you should try to make your bye as short and sweet as possible. Stay for the first 10 to 15 minutes, then say goodbye and tell your baby you’ll be back soon. Avoid sneaking away or prolonging the goodbye, and try to act calm and confident—even if you feel a little anxious yourself.