The Second Six Months: Moving Up - Part Three
This article includes the following items: New Fears and Concerns in the Second Six Months. Stranger Anxiety, Easing into strangers, For more difficult cases, Separation Anxiety, Is Baby Too Dependent?, Close Parent-Infant Attachment Fosters Independence. There will be three more parts to this article so be sure to keep an eye out for them.
New Fears And Concerns In the Second Six Months
A friend of yours, but a stranger to baby, wishes to greet you and your baby-in-arms. You open your arms to your friends, but your baby doesn't open hers. Instead she fearfully clings to you, periodically peering over her shoulder to check out the intruder. The harder you work t making a proper introduction, the tighter baby clings.
Your baby is experiencing what is commonly called stranger anxiety -- is normal among children in the second six months; it seems to be a protective behavior that keeps babies close to home base at a developmental stage when their motor skills entice them away.
Stranger anxiety normally occurs between six and twelve months, when your onetime social butterfly turns shy. While she formerly enjoyed the game of going from arms to arms, now she settles only for yours. Your baby may reject even her closest significant others previously dear to her. This social behavior is a normal and passing phase, no reflection on your parenting, nor an indication of child insecurity. In fact, some of the most securely attached babies ay go through periods of stranger anxiety before eagerly embracing unfamiliar persons.
Your baby regards you as the standard by which she measures everyone else, and she rates everyone else by your reaction. She sees strangers through your eyes. If your baby needs a social chairman, here's how to help.
Easing into strangers.
For more difficult cases.
If all your social strategies fail to release the clinging vie, sit baby securely on your lap while you enthusiastically relate to the stranger and let baby joining the fun at her own pace.
Separation anxiety usually begins around six months with the crawling phase and may even intensify from twelve to eighteen months when baby begins walking. A wise parent will respect the normal phase of separation anxiety and, if possible, plan necessary separation from baby outside of this sensitive period. Because this phenomenon is of such concern to parents, let's take a closer look.
Is Baby Too Dependent?
Our eight-month-old baby cries every time I put her down and walk into the next room. I can't seem to leave her without her getting upset. We're very close, but could I have made her too dependent on me?
No! You have made her secure, not dependent. Your baby is experiencing separation anxiety, a normal and healthy behavior that is not caused by your making her too dependent.
As a pediatrician watched their own eight-month-old playing, he developed a theory as to why separation anxiety occurs and why it's healthy. While his baby crawled around the room, every few minutes he would look back to see if I was watching. He would get upset if he saw me walking out of the room or couldn't keep a fix on us.
Why this curious behavior? As an experienced baby watcher, he learned that babies do what they do for a good reason. Separation anxiety seems to peak at the time when baby begins experiencing loco motor skills. Could separation anxiety be a safety check that clicks on when baby has the motor abilities to move away from her parents but does not yet have the mental capabilities to handle separation? baby's body says go -- his mind says no. Otherwise, he would just keep going.
Giving "It's OK" signals.
Easing baby into separation.
Close Parent-Infant Attachment Fosters Independence
As was mentioned earlier in a different context, we think it helps to understand mental development if we compare the developing of baby's mind to the process of making a phonograph record; this is our deep-groove theory. The stronger the parent-infant attachment, the deeper the attachment groove in baby's record and the easier baby can click into this groove when needed. Earlier theories about spoiling claimed that an infant who is strongly attached to his mother would never get out of the groove, become independent, and explore on his own. Experience and the experiments of others have shown the opposite. In a classic study, called the strange-situations experiment, researchers studied two groups of infants (labeled "securely attached" and insecurely attached") during an unfamiliar play situation. The most securely attached infants, the ones with the deepest grooves, actually showed less anxiety when separated from their mothers to explore toys in the same room. They periodically checked in with the mother for reassurance that it was OK to explore. The mother seemed to add energy to the infant's explorations. Since the infant did not need to waste effort worrying about whether she was there, he could use that energy for exploring.
When going from oneness to separateness, the securely attached baby established a balance between his desire to explore and his continued need for the feeling of security provided by a trusted caregiver. When a novel toy or a stranger upsets the balance, or mother leaves and thus reduces baby's sense of security, baby feels compelled to re-establish the original equilibrium. The consistent availability of a trusted caregiver provides needed reassurance and promotes independence, confidence, and trust, leading to an important milestone by the end of the first year -- the ability to play alone
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