Sunday, September 30, 2012

Help Kids Get Over a Fear of Bugs

My littlest man is terrified of bugs - a trait that has made many outside play days very interesting. His fear is a very rational fear that developed after he stepped into a fire ant nest and got bitten at least a dozen times on his poor little feet and ankles. For days he cried and itched at those swollen, red bites. Now the pain is gone, but he will scream as soon as a fly lands near him or a potato bug crawls past his toes. 

At two and a half, a fear of bugs seems to be pretty common. In all likelihood, he will grow out of his fear of insects, as quickly as he grew into it. In the meantime though, we've adopted a few strategies to make playing outside a little less scary and will hopefully help move my little guy quickly into a less fearful stage. 

1. Sing about it: when a bug flies anywhere near my little man, he cries out in fear and I immediately start singing, "Shoo-fly don't bother me". Sometimes, that sing-song melody distracts him long enough that the fly or lady bug in question flies right along. We also sing the Itsy-Bitsy Spider, Baby Bumblebee, the Ants Go Marching, and There Ain't No Bugs on Me just for fun. 
2. Model good behavior: my son sees how I react to bugs and feeds off those reactions. When a bug is known and harmless, I am careful to not act afraid or even bothered. I do have to watch my reactions when bees buzz by. Teaching and modeling safety, I walk calmly and quietly away from stinging or biting bugs and simply keep my distance from unknown bugs. 
3. Learn about bugs: feeding my boys' curiosities, learning about what bugs do and even how they can be beneficial has been a fun way to dissuade some of little man's fears. Yes, bees sting, but they also pollinate flowers creating beautiful blooming gardens and even sweeter tasting fruits and vegetables. One of the best ways to learn about bugs is to observe them. Create a bug friendly habitat in your backyard by creating feeders or planting flowers that attract certain types of bugs. 
4. Meet some buggy characters: there are many cute books at the library with insect characters. Start with fictional books about butterflies or ladybugs that introduce kids to non-threatening insect friends. Once kids are comfortable with these characters, they may choose to move onto more educational books about hard working bees and ants or even strange looking beetles and worms.

How have you worked through a fear of bugs with your kids?

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