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Thread: Stranger anxiety

  1. #1

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    Default Stranger anxiety

    Does anyone have any tips on helping a toddler cope with stranger anxiety? Especially when it comes to health checks?

    We just got back from Kynan's 18m CHN check up and it was pretty much a disaster. I had to go to the post office first and when I put Kynan back in the car he threw a tantrum because he realised we weren't going to the park so that wasn't a good start. I was aiming to get to the health centre bit early but DH had left the carseat straps all twisted so by the time I sorted that out we didn't have a lot of spare time. Within about a minute of getting there the CHN was ready to see us. To make matters worse our usual CHN, who is aware of how sensitive Kynan is and takes her time with him, is on leave until next year so Kynan had never met this CHN before. He had his back to her when she came out of the room and got startled when she said hello and he started crying. She wanted to shine a light into his eyes and he really freaked out at that and screamed & buried his face into me. There was no way he was going to let her get close enough to do the usual checks! He was really getting quite hysterical. The CHN ended up making us another appt for a few weeks time in the hopes that he'll be having a better day but I don't think it'll make that much of a difference.



    I ended up feeling a tad defensive as I got the impression that she felt like it was all a bit excessive (although maybe it is?? I've never seen another baby/toddler react as strongly as Kynan does). Anyway, now I feel like I've been doing something wrong I know Kynan though, I know he needs time to adjust and he likes to do the approaching when it comes to new situations and people rather than just being thrown into the middle of it all. But what do I do when it comes to appts like this? There's not time for Kynan to sit there for an hour or so to get used to these people before he has his check up. We have his 18m immunisations on Friday and I'm not looking forward to that. I really want to have the GP check the attachment between his top lip & gum but I know Kynan's really not going to like a stranger getting that close to him.

  2. #2

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    I think some kids are just like that TBH. Aidyn begins crying at the doctors as soon as we walk into the room. Even if its not HIS appt, he will still cry if he sees Mummy or Daddy being prodded. Heaven forbid the doctor tries to touch him to see his ears, throat or listen to his heart... he screams and cries, and has been doing so since at least 6 months of age.
    In Aidyns case I dont think this behaviour is towards everyone - but mostly if its a stranger, or someone he is not comfortable with, who is pushing past certain boundaries of contact - or even watching him too much etc he gets VERY upset.
    He also has the type of personality where he does not take to new things easily, he needs periods of adjustment, or else he gets scared and cranky - no matter what it is! even if we go to a new playground he will be too scared of trying the equipment out and we have to slowly coax him and build his confidence up.

    Goodluck with the immunisations Angel... I know it probably wont be easy... *hugs*

  3. #3

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    Thanks Ambah

    Tanya, yep Kynan has been like this ever since he was little. At 10w we started going to mothers group and the other bubs would be interacting straight away but Kynan always needed time to adjust and take things in. I've had comments too that he'd be better off if I surround him with lots of new people and leave him with new & different people all the time etc but in my heart I honestly don't believe that would help him. I think that would make him feel like the world is a really scary place and that there's nowhere he can feel safe. I want for him to be able to trust that I will be there for him IYKWIM? So whilst I try to encourage him to try new things and provide gentle reassurance, I refuse to force him into situations where he's uncomfortable and I don't ignore his distress because it's obviously a very real and upsetting thing for him.

    Lucas does sound a lot like Kynan. Kynan is fine when we go out too, even at the shops where it's crowded he's quite happy and likes to look around at all the people but as soon as someone he's not so familiar with gets up close and tries to interact with him he starts crying. If he's had time to get used to the person then he's okay if they talk to him but it takes a lot again for him to let someone touch him.

    ETA: Ambah, how did Aidyn go at his 18m check? The CHN was trying to get Kynan to point to his body parts (which he loves doing at home) but of course he was too freaked out to even move. The CHN made it sound like she almost didn't believe me when I said that he usually does do it. And one of the other checks is supposed to be for him to walk around barefoot but when he's really scared he'll either just stand still or sit/lie on the floor...
    Last edited by Angel; November 22nd, 2006 at 11:53 AM.

  4. #4

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    Angel - our MCHN records the milestones as "reported" if she doesn't see them herself. In Jenna's early days there were heaps of P&R (present and reporteds) but now they are mostly P&O (presnt and observed).

    I dont know what to say about the advice on immersing him in more noise etc - I think some kids are just more sensitive than others in some ways.
    Jenna is probably at the other end of the spectrum to be honest, which can be just as bad since she almost goes wiht anyone! At the drs all she wants is a "stick-stick" and just walks straight up to our GP wiht her hand out!

    Is there anything fun you can associate the dr with? We had a small scream at our 18m needles, but the bubbles soon took a bit of the pain away. Its amazing that a nurse blowing bubbles distracts them enough!

    You need to do what you think is right. My sister has 2 quite sensitive children, and its only now at about 8y that the older is starting to come out of her shell and be a little more receptive to strangers.

  5. #5

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    Tallon is a bit like this, but is slowly improving. He used to scream if people came up and said hello to him while I was holding him.. now he's fine with that and will even smile. He'll play on the floor, and let people play next to him or with him (after he's used to them a bit) but heaven forbid they pick him up! LOL.

    I personally think they are just aware of their personal space, and some are a bit more sensitive to it than others. Can you imagine someone 5 times your size suddenly in your space? I'd be a bit freaked out too! I've found that he goes and sits with men better than women, and I think it's coz the guys just plop him on their lap and talk to him, whereas women hold him up close to their face and talk etc.. and that's just way too close for him.

    Like I said, he is getting better. I was worried for a while there, but I think it's just his personality.. he'll be one that needs time to get used to people and things.. and to be honest.. that's just like me and DH too

  6. #6

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    Fiona, hmm bubbles could be worth a try I spose, he does love them. Don't have any bubble stuff atm but I might try taking one of his favourite toys to his GP appt tomorrow. Not sure how well it'll work though as we've tried distraction before. The CHN put a train on the floor for him the other day and I could tell that he really wanted to play with it but it wasn't enough for him to forget his fear.

    Tanya, that's exactly how I describe Kynan - a very sensitive and gentle boy.

    Liz, that's interesting that you & your DH are a bit like that as well. I wonder if it could partly be some kind of genetic/inherited trait as DH & I were both very quiet as children too. We're more outgoing now but it does make me wonder...

    IKWYM about personal space. I was saying that to the CHN too, that Kynan seems to have quite a big personal space area. He is much better than he used to be though when it comes to new situations. 6 months ago if I'd been at the GP's for example he'd cling to my legs but now he'll wander around a bit and be fine as long as no one tries to approach him.

  7. #7

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    Angel - Aidyn never went to his 18 month MCHN check actually.
    We had been seeing the Dr fairly frequently at the time, so I didnt really see the need, plus they closed down my local clinic and its too far a hike to the nearest one.
    I cant imagine he would have done what was asked though ie. touching his body parts/nose etc. He knwe how to do it of course, but he never does it when strangers ask, or when strangers are watching. He doesnt like being asked to do anything in front of other people, and will protest no matter what it is. I think he is quite shy or self conscious in that respect.

  8. #8

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    Angel do you feel kynan is much like yourself?
    Can I just answer this one myself too and say that Aidyn seems to reflect my own personality extraordinarily at times. Especially with the whole self-consciousness thing, and being physically very cautious (I was just like that as a child too). I just hope it has not been me subconsciously pushing myself onto him?
    I have to say though, he is perfectly fine at daycare twice a week (once he got used to the carers) yet I could never even go to Kindy I was too shy.
    And he is an absolute crack up around people he feels comfortable with... he has the best sense of humour and fun I have ever seen. So its good that there is some balance there.

  9. #9
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    Angel, I just wanted to say that Jacob was/is like this too. He totally loses the plot at the Doctor's and screams the place down, even if it's an appointment for me.....

    I found with the CHN, Jacob was different as she let him come to her before doing anything at all. She also speaks in that 'way' that is very warm and friendly and inviting so he warmed to her quite quickly. I find it is much harder for Jacob to warm to men....

    Like Kynan, Jacob needs personal space and time to adjust to new people and I think that's totally normal and understandable (the words "stranger danger" come to mind here - I'd prefer Jacob to be a bit cautious of people in the first instance rather than immediately getting friendly with them!)

    Jacob's not too bad at new playgrounds or things like that, but we know his limits and he is quite clear about it when he wants to go home - he will say "bye (and wave to anyone around him LOL), car, home". If you don't start making a move shortly after that, then he starts to lose his rag a bit......before he could talk, he started going and getting in his stroller when he'd had enough. Before that, we'd wonder why he would get upset......so he worked out a way of saying "enough" and like you, I think it's important to respect that in our little ones. We don't like to be overwhelmed or fearful in our surroundings, so we shouldn't expect them to be either. Generally Jacob has a limit of around 45 - 60 minutes before he starts to get 'over' outings/visits etc.

  10. #10

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    Angel if you think Kynan will be the same when you go back and see this CYN why not wait to the one you normally see is back in the New Year. I think you still have few months after they turn 18months to see them.

    When Alex went for his he was happy and went to play with some toys while we talked.

  11. #11

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    Yeah, I think Kynan is a lot like I was when I was younger. Even my Nanna has said he is just like me when I was a baby. Since DH & I are naturally quite introverted I've really tried to make an effort to give Kynan the opportunity to be around other kids more if that's what he wants. I don't want him to learn to be shy because maybe that's what he see me doing. So we regularly go to the park, waterbaby classes, mothers group sometimes and he used to go to playgroup when it fit in better with his nap time. I'm looking for another one atm but they're all held during his nap time! Anyway, I just hope that Kynan hasn't picked it up from me IYKWIM. But Kynan is fine when he is an environment that he is comfortable with, it just takes him a bit to get used to it to start with.

    Tanya, IKWYM about those looks you get from other people. And one of the things that really irritates me is DH asking Kynan if he's being a 'wussy boy' when he's crying and scared. It's those kinds of comments that can really have a huge impact on a child especially when they come from a family member!

    Anyway, thanks for sharing your experiences & suggestions everyone!

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