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15 mo old with stranger anxiety--How would you have handled this?

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
My 15 mo old DS went through a phase at 10 mo of age where if a stranger seemed to be talking about him, while looking at him, he would cry. He seemed threatened by them, like they were going to eat him or something.

After a month, he was basically over it with most people, though a few random people here and there would still invoke the tears for maybe 2-3 more weeks.

He now handles strangers well if we are holding him (he even handles it well if in his stroller).

I've been the center of his world 24/7 since he was born, though he is fine with DH when I leave to run errands for 2-3 hours.

Which brings me to my question of how other moms would have handled the following situation:

I had a friend visit and she is a stranger to my DS, since she hasn't seen him in 9 months. I had to go to the bathroom and was ready to swoop up my DS to take him with me, when she urged me to leave him in the room with her, saying that he had to learn that if mommy left, I would come back. I was hesitant, knowing he would cry, but my friend coerced me saying it would be good for him. He dissolved into tears as soon as I left and she picked him up, while I hurriedly left and returned, and she returned him to me, still in tears.

He proceeded to sob uncontrollably for the next 20 min until she left (she had to leave anyway at that time) and I quickly nursed him to calm him down after she left. IFrankly, I just didn't think it was worth it to put him through that experience.

I don't know if the experiment of leaving him was the thing to do or not, particularly since she was a complete stranger to him. He has been super sensitive/high needs since birth (induced 5 wks early to boot) and very "slow to warm" to people.

I still feel bad that he went through what must have been traumatic for him, putting myself in his shoes, though at the same time, I wonder if I am coddling him/being overprotective had I not done what she suggested. I know this is a minor situation in the big scheme of things, but I'm still curious as to what other moms would do.

When my parents came to visit during the height of his stranger anxiety, it took DS 3 days before they could hold him. They were then also able to leave the room and take him outside without me and it didn't upset him. Again, slow to warm...

My thinking is that he needs to be eased into me leaving him with "strangers" (i.e. maybe another mom he gets to know through playdates or a sitter he gets to know before leaving him alone) rather than throwing him into the fire with a complete stranger.

He has never been in day care or with a sitter, since I'm a SAHM.

I've been socializing him with toddler classes 3 times a week and he is very timid and shy, wanting to sit in my lap, but toward the end of class, he starts to warm up (though the class is over by then).

post #2 of 11
I wrote a thread on this a month or so ago.... Same thing, mine is 14 nearly 15months now. And the only reason I asked is becuase my friend started saying I needed to put him in a nursery and emotionally detatch from him etc.... hmm... and she kept presssuring me. I think because he started screaming at her as she had been away for 3-4 months, (before that he was ok with her). Anyway, so many people put their children in daycare early, because of work or other choices, and for those of us that dont and have babies with SA (which most babies at some point go through I think), then we should be pushing them to be more independent earlier etc.
we are the only mammals to encourage, and sometimes force independence, all other creatures encourage dependance until their babies make their own moves....
I really agree with this, (as far as I can manage).
I think you just have to ignore people like that and trust your own instincts. Its really hard when your baby is the only one screaming and its embarrassing. I was told recently I mothered him too much too.
Its perfectly normal. and it will change and get easier.
post #3 of 11
My 17 mo LO is/was like this too. I am also a SAHM. The thing that helped (though she still is extremely shy) was that we went on a month long trip to see relatives, part of which was in another country. She met literally about 100 new people and I think it just overwhelmed her and finally she started getting used to being with new people. It worked so well that since we've been back even though I am a SAHM I'm still pushing her being around new people. We go to the park every day, I enrolled her in swimming class, toddler dance, etc. Also I've been taking her to "events" where I know there will be a lot of people. For example today our local food co-op is having an outdoor harvest party, I'll take her there even if she just clings to my leg the whole time, at least she's around lots of other people.

I still don't leave her alone with strangers, but it's getting much easier to leave her with familiar people that are not DH or myself for a few minutes while I go the bathroom, etc. I hope this helps.

PS...Some people (like my father) she never seemed to warm up to, and I don't push it even though he always asks to take her for a walk alone when he comes. I try to follow her cues and not make her unhappy too.
post #4 of 11
I think your feelings are right here. If I feel like it's going to upset my 13mo DD to leave her, then I won't. I don't mind taking her to the bathroom with me if that's what she needs. It's such a short time in their lives that I enjoy it and accept it for what it is. Go with your gut here, your little guy needs you.
post #5 of 11
My dd2 is just about the same age. She has seperation anxiety but nowhere nearly as bad as dd1. It is so useful to have an older sibling! With dd1 I did what you do--I brought her with me to the bathroom, I never forced her to go with anyone else. I trusted that she would go away from me when she was ready. I got pretty much no support but I stood my ground. And it totally paid off! She is the most independent seven-year-old ever. Everyone tells me how friendly and independent she is.
No one gives me grief this time around. They see how dd1 turned out and how could they?
I think you are awesome for listening to your mothering instincts.
post #6 of 11
My ds is just 3 and is still very slow to warm up to people/situations, he's always been like this. What I have learned is that I need to trust my own instincts about what he needs and not listen to what other people say. It was very hard at first and I questioned myself frequently because no one was telling me that I should be doing what I was doing- keeping him as close as he wanted, etc. Every time I have not listened to my own instincts about how to be his mother, I have been sorry and wished I had. Seeing that over time has helped me feel a lot stronger about my ability to parent him and I don't get much input from others anymore, which is nice.

Keep trusting yourself, you know what your child needs.
post #7 of 11
My daughter is 14 months. She has always been slow to warm up and doesn't like people in her face. Two months ago, we started attending Gymboree Play and Music classes. My reserved child has started coming out of her shell all of a sudden! Her confidence level has sky rocketed and she now seeks out people instead of screaming or crying. She has blossomed. At Gymboree, they teach you to trust what your child is communicating to you. I.e. If they're not ready to join a certain activity, don't make them. Encourage them to progress forward, but don't force something they're obviously communicating Is too much for them. They'll surprise you one day by joining in that activity all their own.
post #8 of 11
My DS was born with stranger anxiety & just now at 19mos has started to come out of his shell.

No, I would not leave him alone with a 'stranger' while I went to the bathroom or something. I would, however, leave him with people that he sees frequently -- though still only for a minute or two. Yes, he might cry a bit, but he knows these people & interacts with them and they are able to calm him, and he can learn to trust others & know Mommy will come back -- without getting stressed out & inconsolable.

Trust your instincts... lots of well-meaning friends & family are going to try to encourage/persuade you to do things you don't feel your child is ready for, and it's OK to just be polite but firm -- "No thanks, he will get upset if I leave him here," and then scoop him up & bring him with you, don't take the time to debate it with them. You know what is best for your child.

Also DS is the same about not opening up & relaxing 'til the end of classes, playdates, etc. So I try bringing him to the same places frequently (i.e. bring him to the library even when story hour isn't going on) so they become more familiar, and also try to get to classes early so he has time to get used to the environment & let the other people trickle in rather than walk into a jam-packed room. Of course that doesn't always work out (some days it's hard enough just to be on time, never mind early!!) but I try.
post #9 of 11
I completely agree with trusting your instincts. And I want to add that this (probably) has nothing to do with being a SAHM. I work 4 days a week and have an amazing nanny, and DS still has major SA, not just from me. When he is with her, he clings to her as he does me, and the same thing when my mom is watching him. We are his safe people, and when he becomes comfortable with someone new, he ventures out more. This is a normal thing for kids, and is personality-dependent, so some kiddos will be more adventurous than others, and some will cling more than others. I always let DS lead the way, never pushing him to go to someone with whom he is not yet comfortable.
post #10 of 11
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all the feedback. I still feel bad for being coerced into leaving him, though it was only for a few minutes. Really, I'm just mad at myself for not being strong enough to go with my intuition about what is best for my DS.

Putting myself in his shoes, how horribly frightening to be left with a complete stranger. Of course he was scared. He didn't know if he was safe with my friend (though she said she had been there an hour conversing with me and that was enough time for him to know that she was okay). I just feel so bad for causing him to know what even a second of having his mommy abandon him is like.

I'm going to stick to my guns in the future. I know what's best for him.
post #11 of 11
Well don't beat yourself up over it!! I can't tell you how many times I've done things & later realized I should've done something different, that I probably scared or traumatized DS... Kids are amazingly resilient, you do your best to protect them & avoid frightening them but sometimes it happens, and they recover quite well. Frequently leaving him with strangers might cause some lasting fear or anxiety but a one-time thing is not something that's going to harm him for life!
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