My 10month old daughter has recently become scared of any strangers, men in particular. We are australian but have been living in Thailand since she was born. She doesn't have any problems with Thai men or women, but gets very scared and cries so much she loses her breath when she is close to any foreign men ( caucasian) It seems as if she is having panic attacks. I try my best to settle her when this happens but it takes quite a while to calm her down. I have to take her away from the stranger so she cannot see them before she will stop crying. Is there anything you can suggest to help us deal with this behaviour so she can learn to cope a bit better. Thankyou
its right on schedule for your daughter to have stranger anxiety at this age. Stranger anxiety signals a milestone in cognitive development, such that she has a solid sense of you and her other family members as people who will keep her safe, and deems other people as potentially dangerous unknowns. Infant breath holding spells are also not uncommon. An infant breath holding spell happens when the child is upset, opens his mouth wide as if to cry, and may actually loose consciousness for a few moments. After the body 'reboots', the child resumes normal activity.
Your best bet is just to be low key and calming when your daughter is this upset. If she picks up on anxiety from you, her anxiety level will increase. By the way, responding to your anxiety is a healthy thing--its very adaptive for children to follow your lead if a threat is present. Your daughter is genuinely afraid, and though you might distract her sometimes, you won't be able to talk, reprimand, or cajole her out of her fear. Its a phase that will pass in a few months. This is a great opportunity to model calming behaviors for her. Rock her gently and repeat one or two phrases to her like "Mommy's got you. Everything is ok." Sing a little soothing song.
Finally, let the stranger know to back off and respect her need to calm down. Too many adults try to get right up in the child's face and jolly them out of their fear--which will only make it worse!
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