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Stranger anxiety with friends - ideas?

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  • Stranger anxiety with friends - ideas?

    Our 1-year-old has (and has had) "stranger anxiety" when certain friends approach her. Lately it has been in response to most friends, but a few specifically. These few friends are male, typically with dark features, and deep voices. (My husband has light features and a not-so-deep voice.) When they approach, she clings to us, pulls away from them, and if they try to touch her, she cries for a long time.

    We are wondering what to do about this. Should we put her in the arms of our friends regardless of her response so she doesn't grow up to be shy and clingy whenever friends approach? Should we hold her and ask our friends to allow her to warm up to them in her own time?

    Also, I recall reading that children whose fathers are very involved in their lives do better with stranger/friends than those whose fathers are not as involved. My husband works out of town 5 days per week but is very involved on the weekends. Do you think this might be contributing or have a negative impact on her now or later?

    Thanks so much - we'll be so grateful for any advice or suggestions.

    Kenyon

  • #2
    Hi, my first son is just a shy person and takes a long time to warm up so I know what it is like (my second is very gregarious in contrast to his brother.)

    "Should we put her in the arms of our friends regardless of her response so she doesn't grow up to be shy and clingy whenever friends approach?"
    I don't like this idea!!! Give her a change to feel OK about it. It could make her MORE anxious in social situations knowing she will be forced into it. What satisfaction could thease friends have by forcibly holding a distressed child in an attempt to get to know her? Give her time to warm up. Possibly suggest to them that "she takes her own time and I'd like to respect her needs." I know my son did better if you egnored him compleately untill he was ready to be involved (he stood near me or sat on my lap and observed the group). Now at 4 he is very friendly and not overly shy but will take a few minutes to get comfortable with new people and new places ----and I think that is smart of him! His father is around a lot so that might not have anything to do with your daughter.

    "When they approach, she clings to us, pulls away from them, and if they try to touch her, she cries for a long time."
    I would suggest that they don't try to touch her!


    Try to relax and respond to her needs for gradual introduction. My son also had this fear of tall, dark haired men. I never understood why, but did what I could to ease his fears.

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    • #3
      I would not try and get her to go to people she does not want to go to. I'd think of it as honoring her instincts. And, I think the best way for her to not be shy and clingy in the long run is to respect her comfort level in the present.Though, I think a lot of shyness is personality and there is no magic way to make shyish kids into super outgoing kids.

      I'm also wondering if the people she is having a problem with are people who are going right up to her and trying to engage her or get her to go to them. People often do this as a way to make a child more comfortable with them but it's not a good strategy from an attachment perspective. The child looks to mom/dad to see if the person is accetable because mom/dad is their guide to what is safe and what is not. If the new person is right in the child's space they aren't able to figure out if the person is safe or not which I imagine must be pretty distressing to them. So, the best way for a child to feel safe with a newish person is to give them lots of time to see that person interacting with mom/dad and see mom/dad react positively to them. I'm guessing this is what Naomi's son was doing:

      Originally posted by naomifrederickmd View Post
      I know my son did better if you egnored him compleately untill he was ready to be involved (he stood near me or sat on my lap and observed the group). Now at 4 he is very friendly and not overly shy but will take a few minutes to get comfortable with new people and new places
      Hope this helps,

      Comment


      • #4
        Let her find her own comfort zone. I would never make a child hug, kiss or be near anyone they didn't want to.

        I got heck from my ex MIL for not making Jackie kiss her and her husband and I said that was the start of telling her she had to show physical affection against her will. They used the excuse, we are family / friends, but most cases of sexual abuse happen with family and friends.

        Adults then use the, “I am uncle so and so or aunt so and so and you have to”, and then the child has been told they are obligated.

        This later extends into their own personal relationships, making them easier targets for someone to coerce into sexual situations when they are older.

        Like the other mamas said, she will follow your example, but sometimes she will not. Each person has their own comfort level. I am friends with people that are friends with people I would never be around. My daughters were not too happy with some of my choices in friends, and it wasn't anything they did. It was just the "chemical reaction" or "vibe" that they got when they were around them. There were just a couple they adored, but overall, they weren't interested. Not their age, not their friends so not interested.


        Peace & Blessings,


        Jo
        Last edited by EcoMaMa; 06-20-2009, 08:23 AM.

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        • #5
          I guess this is sort of a tangent, but I've realized, over the course of my motherhood that we parents tend to feel concern or insecurity about our children's shyness because we believe that other grown-ups expect children to show deference to them--they call it respecting your elders--and for sure many grown-ups do expect just this. But what I've also come to realize is that most, if not all, of those grown-ups are extremely insecure people suffering from low self-esteem which they are seeking to elevate by demanding that little people give them the affirmation they crave. And while it is certainly an act of human loving kindness whenever we authentically affirm one another, it is not loving kindness when we force, or try to coerce little people to give big people what they are not willing to give them of their own free will, nor is it truly affirming for the adult when he can plainly see that the child has to be coerced to show him deference. Everyone loses in that situation. It is the responsibility of mature adults to provide for the needs of those who are less capable of providing for their own needs. It is rarely, I dare say never, the responsibility of a child, still immature, to supply for the needs of adults, emotional or otherwise, regardless of the severity of the deficit.

          I find it helpful to keep in mind that we are not responsible for each other's feelings--that I do not want my children to grow up believing that others are responsible for their feelings, that their happiness is under the control of every one else in their lives--and therefore I cannot hold my children responsible for the feelings and happiness of others. But if I can continue to grow myself up, becoming a more and more affirming person, I can share this power with others and my children will learn from me--not because I have taken on the responsibility for other's feelings or actions, but because I choose to practice loving kindness in my relationships with others--because it is its own reward.

          It may take some work, but I have found that it is totally possible to be affirming to others while still respecting and affirming our children.

          Comment


          • #6
            Yes Robynn, I agree
            we parents tend to feel concern or insecurity about our children's shyness because we believe that other grown-ups expect children to show deference to them--they call it respecting your elders--and for sure many grown-ups do expect just this.
            Some might feel that "I am the Grandmother (Aunt, Uncle, person who just gave you an expensive gift, teacher, church leader...etc) so it would be respectful and appropriate for that child to shake my hand (say "thank you", give me a hug, laugh at my jokes, let me hold them...etc) " --without regard to the childs age, personality or familiarity.
            Some might expect a parent to force this behaviour on a child.
            Some would insist that this would be the only way to teach manners and social graces.
            I don't belive force and disrespect EVER should be used to teach respect... that seems backward to me!

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by naomifrederickmd View Post
              I don't belive force and disrespect EVER should be used to teach respect... that seems backward to me!
              Very backwards, indeed! And thank you for balancing my observation about grown-up insecurity and self-esteem with noting the fact that there are also so many grown-ups who just think that children have to be forced to do the right/nice thing or they'll never learn. I've recently been dealing with the problem of bullying, specifically unmaking the bully, and it's in the forefront of my typically one-track mind! Thank you for the reminder!

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