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Outgrowing Stranger Suspicion for Toddlers

Things You Can Do To Help Your Toddler Outgrow His Stranger Suspicion Phase

Stranger anxiety tends to first happen with babies around 5 months, but by 16 months, this phenomenon is more accurately called "stranger suspicion."

It occurs when toddlers view people other than their parents as a threat. Your child may hide behind you, try to run away or even cry when introduced to -- or held by -- a new person. And, while it may be embarrassing when your toddler refuses Great Aunt Gertrude's hugs, it is considered appropriate and normal behavior for toddlers. After all, we don't want them running off with the first person who is nice to them.

Like most other childhood phases, separation anxiety is unique with each child. According to Dr. Harvey Karp, author of "The Happiest Toddler on the Block," it all depends on your child's temperament. Cautious toddlers may have intense and dramatic reactions to strangers, while more easy-going children may demonstrate only mild suspicion with newcomers.

There is no magical cure for stranger suspicion, but there are some things you can do while waiting for your child to outgrow this phase:

  • Ask strangers to approach your child slowly before touching her.
  • Hold your child in your arms while introducing him to a new person.
  • Try to expose your child to many different people and situations, but...
  • Be patient and don't push your child into situations where he is uncomfortable.
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