We tell our kids not to talk to strangers, but what do you do when your child is scared of strangers? When they are so scared that you are afraid it is a true fear that will hinder your child’s daily life?
A friend of mine told me that her daughter was terrified of strangers, crying if they tried to talk to her. While her mom likes knowing that she has a certain amount of fear, she worried about how extreme the fear is.
Here are a few ideas that might help when your child is really scared of strangers…
- Do not make a huge deal about it. Sometimes we can react too much and cause the problem to worsen. Enter the situation calmly and act completely normal.
- When your child is meeting someone new, stay close to them at first. Either hold them or hold their hand. This can help them feel a sense of comfort when they meet someone new.
- If there are toys around, sit down and start playing with your child and encourage the stranger to as well. Many times kids will relax in the play environment and warm up quickly.
- Every child is different! Some are going to be more fearful and others more outgoing right away. It can take some kids longer to outgrow the fear of strangers.
Be patient as this happens.
- When you know you will be in a new situation, bring along a comfort item for your child. Prepare your child ahead of time about the situation and about the new people that will be there. Tell them that you are bringing their “blankey” so that they can squeeze it tight if they aren’t comfortable.
- Talk about meeting new people when you are at home. Role-play different scenarios to help your child feel more comfortable with the unknown. Read books that talk about strangers and making new friends, so they can understand that there are strangers, but that sometimes they can become friends.
- Never dismiss their fear or label them as shy. Be encouraging! Your child will live up to what you expect of them.
- Ask new people to allow your child space to get comfortable. It’s OK to allow your child the right to pass up a hug or handshake at first. They are young children and need to know that they can set boundaries.
- Do not cater to the fear. Don’t stop going out or being around new people… that will only make the fear grow. Keep meeting people and eventually, your child will get more comfortable.
- Depending on the age of the child, teach him/her how to cope with fear. Take deep breaths, remember mom is there, etc.
Remember, this fear is real to your child. It is a scary thought to know that someone that you don’t know is walking up to you, so close, trying to talk to you. Imagine being in your child’s shoes for a moment. Check out more answers and ideas on our Facebook page.