Fear of strangers is generally accepted as part of a part of a baby’s development. Indeed, over 80% of babies are never comfortable in hands of a stranger. The fact that your baby remains fearful of strangers should not be surprising because he/she has already developed an attachment to you and other family members whose faces he/she can easily recognize.
However, it is important to ensure that your baby does not remain fearful of strangers for a long time. This is because the fear can be intense to a point where it affects his/her social development.
What is Fear of Strangers?
Fear of strangers is simply that, Your baby simply avoids anyone he/she is not familiar with. Your baby is most likely to develop this fear when he/she is of age between 7-12 months. This is usually a time when he/she has established close connections with family members he/she can easily identify. He/she is most likely to cry, fuss, remain silent or attempt to hide in the presence of a stranger.
It is important to distinguish between fear of strangers and separation anxiety. Unlike the former, the latter refers to a baby’s fear of not being around the mother even when he/she is left under the care of another known family member.
Your baby can remain fearful of strangers for several months before he/she gains the confidence to remain around strangers. Although most babies overcome the fear by the time they turn 2 years, there are those who remain fearful after that, which increases their risk of developing social anxiety, which is most likely to affect them for the rest of their life. Such babies grow to become adults who remain withdrawn even during social events. They simply lack the confidence to face others due to low self-esteem.
It has been observed that babies who remain fearful even when they become teenagers do not do well in school. They also have serious problems in establishing friendships, especially with the opposite sex. They eventually remain at high risk of developing serious disorders and/or health problems.
What to do
There are several ways you can help your baby overcome the fear of strangers. Indeed, you can easily prevent it by employing some of the following techniques;
Introducing your baby to visitors whenever they visit is one of the best ways to help your baby overcome fear of strangers. This makes it possible for your baby to get used to unfamiliar faces apart from faces of regular family members.
Maintain a positive body language whenever you greet people you are familiar with. Such actions as a smile, eye contact and niceties serve to show your baby that you are not scared of people who to him/her are strangers.
Inform anyone who is a stranger to your baby about his/her fear and let the stranger approach your baby with that knowledge.
Your baby should overcome his/her fear of strangers by the time he/she attains the age of 2 years. You will need to be concerned when your baby maintains that maintain fear past that age. It will be necessary to seek professional help and a good way to start is by consulting a pediatrician who is better placed to recommend the right professional.