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Question
Posted by: Adoptive Mom | 2011/08/17

Daughter over friendly to strangers

Dear Cybershrink

I adopted my daughter when she was 7 months old, before then she lived at a home for abandoned children as the birth mom gave her up for adoption from birth. She is now 3 years and a very well adjusted child but my problem with her is that she is overly comfortable with strangers. Even if we have a plumber in the house, she would be clinging on to the man for him to carry her and one day I looked for her after one guy came to take measurements for blinds. Guess where was she? In the car of that man and the poor man could not leave because the baby was comfortably seating on the front seat.

Should I be worried about this tendency she has? Her school teacher says I should start teaching her about the fact that she should be weary of strangers and see how she goes from there. Do you think that will be sufficient to curb the problem? I think this comes from the 7 months when she did not have one dedicated care giver to bond with, could I be right and if so is there a way of addressing this problem?

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink

Interesting description of a problem that isn't rare. Of course excessive stranger fear is usually more of a problem. By 3 years one should be starting to teach her many things about how life works, including a need for caution with strangers, because some are not nice, even if some others are nice. Getting into the guy's car sounds a bit excessive - does she especially like travelling in cars, and doesn't get much of that in her ordinary life ?
Teaching wariness is wise. It should be enough, and if it isn't then we can think of more direct and explicit responses. I think you're right that as she grew up at a crucial stage with multiple caregivers, all safe, but none her special person, she has come to expect all other people to be friendly and safe. Without making her fearful of anyone but you, one just needs to patiently underline that she should talk to, much less go along with, anyone else EXCEPT if you have said it's OK. Actually, a similar approach to that one would take regarding strange dogs - don't pet them at all, unless Mom says this one is OK
I think there was a character, Blanche, in the great Tennessee Williams play, Streetcar named Desire, who said in its closing line : "I have always depended on the kindness
of strangers". Maybe that's what misled her, and it may take a little while for her to re-calibrate

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Our users say:
Posted by: cybershrink | 2011/08/17

Interesting description of a problem that isn't rare. Of course excessive stranger fear is usually more of a problem. By 3 years one should be starting to teach her many things about how life works, including a need for caution with strangers, because some are not nice, even if some others are nice. Getting into the guy's car sounds a bit excessive - does she especially like travelling in cars, and doesn't get much of that in her ordinary life ?
Teaching wariness is wise. It should be enough, and if it isn't then we can think of more direct and explicit responses. I think you're right that as she grew up at a crucial stage with multiple caregivers, all safe, but none her special person, she has come to expect all other people to be friendly and safe. Without making her fearful of anyone but you, one just needs to patiently underline that she should talk to, much less go along with, anyone else EXCEPT if you have said it's OK. Actually, a similar approach to that one would take regarding strange dogs - don't pet them at all, unless Mom says this one is OK
I think there was a character, Blanche, in the great Tennessee Williams play, Streetcar named Desire, who said in its closing line : "I have always depended on the kindness
of strangers". Maybe that's what misled her, and it may take a little while for her to re-calibrate

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