In the first months after birth, children are surprisingly sociable: they walk on their hands to strangers, treat guests with curiosity and listen to their speech, are in crowded places with joyful interest. However, at about 7–8 months, a sharp change occurs: the baby suddenly begins to fear outsiders. Just yesterday, the child, with animation and laughter, responded to passers-by smiles, met neighbors and relatives with a grunt, and today he suddenly burst into tears at the sight of his grandmother, who comes to visit the baby occasionally, and flatly refused to embrace her.
Parents are frightened of such demonstrations, not understanding why their sociable pipsqueak suddenly became a timid coward. Often, mothers shyly try to justify themselves in front of relatives and friends, in parallel trying to persuade the baby to smile and “go to the hands of the aunt.” And in vain!
Such emotional outbursts are absolutely normal for one-year-old babies. Moreover, the fear of strangers is a natural phase of development, meaning that the baby began to divide people into “friends” and “aliens”.
This, to put it more simply, is a peculiar manifestation of the innate instinct of self-preservation.
Scientific studies have shown that in the company of strangers or in the absence of a mother, babies from 9 to 12 months increase the amount of cortisol (stress hormone) in the blood, because in a society of new people the child feels confusion and panic. The protective mechanism is activated when the baby is left without a mother, even for a short period of time.
In this situation, the primary task of the parents is to form a sense of security in the baby: pick up, hug, caress, comfort with a kind word. In crowded places a child can be worn in a “kangaroo” or sling – physical contact with the mother creates a feeling of comfort, gives calm and comfort. If you are waiting for guests, be sure to inform them of possible negative reactions of the baby, explain that in the period from 7–9 months to 2–3 years, children become fearful and timid.
The phrase: “He is now afraid of everyone” is universal and will immediately eliminate the awkwardness that has arisen.
The main thing is to act diplomatically. It is not necessary to chide the baby if he is naughty in the society of outsiders, even if it is not at all outsiders, but close relatives.
For an infant, the people he sees no more than once a week are strangers. It is senseless and harmful to nest on a crumb, persuading a hug to an unfamiliar person – the child will only increase the level of anxiety, and with regular “torture by intercourse” the child will neurotize but will not relax.
Do not focus on the child’s fear, and gradually by 2–3 years old, it will disappear by itself. Try not to give the child to the garden until the child is psychologically ready to let you go. Early separation from the mother threatens to aggravate fears and the emergence of various psychological difficulties.
However, sometimes there are situations when the mother is forced to give the crumbs in the nursery in 1−1.5 years. In this case, it is important to ensure a soft, delicate adaptation to new conditions.
Agree with the kindergarten administration that you will be with your child for the first time. Then, when the baby is comfortable, begin to leave a crumb: for an hour, then for 2–3 hours, then for half a day, sensitively reacting to the slightest manifestations of fear, insecurity or anxiety. So the baby will gradually get used to the caregivers and children, will cease to perceive them as strangers, will join the team and will relate to parting calmly.
You should behave in the same way with the nanny: first be present at her visits, then leave the baby alone with her for 15 minutes, half an hour, an hour, etc., on the rise. With each parting, you can use a special ritual: the nanny waves a toy or pulls a certain object to the baby – always the same to coax and attract the baby.
After a couple of weeks, the child will become fully accustomed to the new person, and you will be able to go to work.
The lack of fear of strangers at the age of 1-2 years can be a sign of autism. Small autists without fear go into the hands of strangers, because they do not differentiate people into “close” and “outsiders”.
Such children inadequately react to the appearance or departure of parents, do not notice their absence, live as if in a “vacuum”, not letting even their relatives into their little world. Autism is a serious violation of the mental and emotional development of the child, and it is important to identify him in the early stages.
So, if the baby does not react to the appearance of strangers in the period of 9-12 months, does not reach for the mother, does not look into the eyes of adults, does not show interest in communication, contact a neuropathologist.
Sometimes fear of strangers arises as a result of experienced stress. For example, in early childhood, the child went to the hospital, where he was without a mother.
Such tests can lead to pathological fears of adults, especially doctors and nurses. In a society of strangers, the baby can become extremely restless, whiny, or, conversely, inhibited, silent.
To persuade or dishonor (especially in public) the child is cruel and impractical: the crumb will close, will no longer trust the parents, but will not become bolder. Fathers, who dream of seeing their child active, courageous and irritably perceiving any manifestations of “weakness”, do not understand that the psyche of the child is extremely vulnerable, especially sin in the “cowardice” and “downtroddenness”.
From contemptuous ridicule or angry statements from a child to fear will be added more and shame for their own “cowardice”, which will complicate the situation, because now the problem will become double: the child will have to get rid of not only fear, but also to prove to themselves and those around them their worth.
Helping to overcome deep-seated fears can only be support, assurances that you understand the baby’s fears, realize how hard the crumbs are, never leave him in a difficult life situation and always save the situation. The kid should feel that his experiences are taken seriously, sympathize and sympathize. Then the child will be born with the confidence that, together with wise, understanding and strong parents, he will be able to overcome everything.
The stories of adults about their own children’s fears and how to overcome them successfully are also effective. The kid will receive an important installation: dad (or mom) was also afraid when they were small, but managed to cope, learned to control fear.
In addition, role-playing games can become a great help, in which it is worth losing the everyday situations that are alarming for the baby. So, you can put puppet scenes about a bunny.
For example, if a child is afraid of being left without his mother, he can’t be alone for a minute, you can show a mini-performance: he was afraid to stay alone, but his mother persuaded him and left. When she was away, the hare began to dream. (what – talk together with the child), but nevertheless, the rabbit invented what to do and got rid of the alarm.
Demonstrate how the mother on her return praised the baby for courage. In the event that the crumb is afraid of strangers, you can play scenes about Lost: the puppy went for a walk with the owner and … lost.
It is important to fix the attention of the child at the moment when the puppy is lost, that he felt. Older kids can be asked to portray facial expressions and gestures, like a puppy frightened, fell into despair. Be sure to discuss the reason why the puppy was lost.
Maybe he ran ahead or, on the contrary, lost in thought, behind the master? Further show the adventures of the Lost Ones, narrating how a frightened puppy met kind characters who sympathized with him, helped him and eventually found a way home. Events should be positive, and the people or animals perceived as a source of threat at first as a source of threat should be remarkable and responsive.
Remember that pressure creates additional resistance, and only parental support, attention and tact will help the child to overcome fears, to open up and learn to trust others.