It’s normal for your child to have a fear of strangers. While it may just be a passing phase, it can sometimes go on for longer. The experts weigh in on how to manage that.
WORDS STEPHANIE CLARISSA
Vyda S. Chai, clinical psychologist at Think Psychological Services and Dr Vanessa von Auer, clinical psychologist at VA Psychology Center share their inputs below on different coping mechanisms and situations to help your child manage their fears.
Helping Your Child Feel Comfortable
Allow your child time to warm up to strangers from a safe and comfortable environment like your home. Take a smoothing approach – with specific toys as a buffer in between to break the ice. Gradually with guided exposure and a warm and sensitive approach, your child will eventually respond.
Try not to force your child to hug, kiss or approach the stranger
as this will only increase levels of anxiety. Of course, another approach
will be to expose them to more people.
Meeting New People
Practise meeting new people at home through role-playing. This way, the child has a script and knows how to act (even if anxious) when in a new situation, which will boost his confidence.
The Issue of Being Shy and Embarrassed
Do not comment on this as a parent. If you explain to everyone that your child is shy or embarrassed, he may feel even more so. Sooner or later, children grow out of this stage and avoiding labelling your child “shy” or “embarrassed” will prevent a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Recognising Your Child’s Fear of Strangers
Parents may get confused if their child is really afraid or just too comfortable with not speaking to anyone. As Chai mentions, above all, do not fear that stranger anxiety means your child is spoiled or too attached, or that he will never become independent. These worries are unfounded. She reminds us to always take caution around unfamiliar people and a close attachment to the child’s primary caregiver are some of the healthiest traits a growing child can have. As parents, it is important to educate yourselves that stranger fear is actually based on rational thinking. Your child is becoming increasingly knowledgeable about the world and its potential dangers. Use your might, take this fear and convert it into confidence. It can get better than this!