Stranger Anxiety in Adoption

The process of development of stranger anxiety will occur over time and at different stages.  Think of newborn babies who do not have any fear of people; over time they develop a bond with mom and dad and the desire to stay with them rather than be passed around or left with a stranger.  This is the same in adoption.  Our goal is for adoptive parents to build trust and gradually help the child learn who is safe and who is a stranger.  These are some helpful reminders that might help:

  • Children recently adopted may display indiscriminate affection and go to any stranger to seek a hug or to be held. Remember that this is expected when first home and that healthy stranger anxiety will come through time and limitation of affection given by strangers.
  • Remember to cocoon in the beginning and then gradually move out through their circle of support: Immediate family, extended family, closest friends, small groups at church, large events of people, etc.
  • Help teach your older child by using scripts for different categories of people: The term “friends” can be used to describe safe people to interact with.
  • Model appropriate interactions (just a “hello”, a high five, side hug, etc.)