Warmer temperatures bring all sorts of good things: ice cream and flowers, sunny days, spring sports are just a few. Unfortunately, they also bring out insects. From buzzing bumblebees to biting mosquitoes to roly-poly pill bugs, the creepy-crawlies come out in full force after the last of winter’s snow has melted. While bugs are just an annoyance to most of us, things can get hairy when our child has a bug phobia! Many kids go through this at one time or another, and it can make outdoor adventures stressful for everyone. Here are some tips on dealing with your child’s fear of bugs:
- Don’t make light of your child’s fears. Yes, to you, a full-grown adult, your three-year-old’s intense fear of grasshoppers is irrational. It makes perfect sense to her, though! Telling her that she’s just being silly is not going to help matters. Take her fears seriously, even when it’s frustrating that you can’t rationalize with her.
- Talk to your child to find out why he’s afraid. He may have seen a classmate get stung by a bee, or heard a story about someone getting bitten by a spider. If you tend to be afraid of six-legged critters, you may have unwittingly passed this squeamishness onto him. Talking about exactly what he’s afraid of might give you the opportunity to put his fears to rest with rational explanations. Bees, for example, rarely want to sting, and will usually try to get away from you before they resort to stinging. Beetles and grasshoppers don’t bite, and while mosquitoes do buzz in people’s ears, their bites really don’t hurt, and a dab of calamine lotion takes away the itch.
- Avoid insects if your child’s fears are really strong. You may need to stay out of heavily wooded areas if little flies really bother your child, and warn her before she plays in a meadow filled with flowers (and, likely, bees). She’ll probably outgrow the intensity of her fear by next spring, and in the meantime, you may need to make some concessions for her.
- Show your child that some insects are not scary at all. Kids tend not to find bugs like fireflies, butterflies and ladybugs frightening. If he seems receptive, you could point out pretty butterflies drinking nectar out of a flower, or take a jar outdoors in the evening and try to capture a few fireflies to light up the night. Realizing that these gentle creatures are related to other insects might set your child’s mind at ease.
- Learn about insects. The unknown tends to be scary, so the more information she has, the less afraid she may be. Tell her the difference between a spider and an insect, and look up how bees make honey or how ants manage their colonies. You could also try buying a “grow a butterfly” or “grow a ladybug” kit; with these, you receive baby bugs in the mail, complete with a habitat. Follow the directions and watch your larva turn into a pupa and finally, an adult insect that you can release.
Fears over spiders and insects can last a lifetime, but they’re usually most intense in children. With any luck, your child’s fear of bugs will be short-lived and by this time next year, maybe he’ll be more interested in observing insects than running from them.
What have you tried to help your child get over his fear of bugs?