Separation anxiety and fear of strangers
Separation anxiety is a normal stage of the development of babies and usually starts at around 8 months of age. It is characterized by the appearance of anxiety signals when baby is separated from mother or in the presence of strangers. For example, a baby who easily went from person to person in their first months of life may now begin to cry when they see unfamiliar faces or refuse to leave your arms, even to go to daddy's arms.
This phase is not only normal, it's important when experienced positively by the parents because it allows the child to learn important lessons for their development:
- They learn to distinguish individuals and recognize faces;
- They understand that they are their own person and not an extension of their parents;
- They develop the concept of object permanence, that is to say, they begin to understand that people continue to exist even if they can't see them;
- They express their individuality by making their preferences known.
How to help your baby through this stage?
Although separation anxiety and fear of strangers is normal and there is no need to worry, it's still important to guide your child in their learning so the experience is positive for them:
- If you must leave, always say goodbye so that your child can understand that you will come back even if they can't see you. The worst thing you can do is to try to leave without them noticing as this will increase their fears of you disappearing.
- Encourage their independence by letting them play alone in a room while talking to them from the next room.
- As children learn through play, let them discover the hide and seek or cuckoo game, which is ideal to teach them the concept of object permanence.
- Socialize your child so they get used to seeing new faces. You could also have a friend or a family member babysit from time to time.
- Never force your child if they are scared. Let them experience things gradually.
- Children are emotional sponges so evaluate your own emotions, and if necessary, moderate your own insecurities so they can learn from you.
- Avoid big changes during this period.
Going back to work
Working moms have to start thinking about returning to work at about the same time as baby starts experiencing separation anxiety. That's not very reassuring for moms! You are beginning to realize that you will soon not be with your baby at all times and will have to be away from them longer than ever before and it can be difficult to conceive that baby can survive without you!
Don't feel guilty for feeling this range of unpleasant emotions, as it's normal to anticipate the unknown and major changes that require more organization. The important thing is to not feed your anxiety and to take matters in hand before they accumulate and seem impossible to resolve.
Write down how you are feeling, talk with your friends who have been there, get support from your partner and read up on your questions. For example, our discussion forums are visited by thousands of moms who are going through the same things you are, to varying degrees, and their experience and tips can be of great comfort to you.
We also encourage you to read our article Work-life balance for tips and advice that will help you prepare for your return to work smoothly.