By: Rebecca Michelsen, M.Ed., MCHES, Community Outreach & Education Specialist, Penfield Children’s Center
My daughter loves playing outdoors and one of her favorite activities is looking at bugs. However, recently while playing outdoors, she was stung by a hornet. Now she is fearful of any bug that flies near her.
In trying to better understand my daughter’s new fear, I have learned it is common for children to become fearful after being stung or bit for the first time, especially if they are allergic. Fears often arise because of the memories of what happened and what they felt when they were stung.
Here are some tips to help children overcome their fear of insects after being bit or stung.
Educate about insects: In a way that is comfortable for your child, educate them about common insects they may see when they are playing outdoors. It is important to help children understand that many of the insects we encounter play an important role on the planet. Whether it is helping to pollinate plants and trees or serve as part of the food chain in feeding birds or other small animals.
Talk about safety: Explain that there are some types of insects that can be observed up close and some that should be observed from a distance. Caterpillars, butterflies and ladybugs, are bugs we can observe up close. Spiders, wasps and bees are bugs that are best observed from a distance, since they may bite or sting. Teach children that they should remain calm should one of these bugs fly near them or land on them. Also, teach them to avoid areas where these types of insects tend to congregate such as garbage cans.
Slowly increase outdoor time and be patient: At first, your child might be hesitant about heading back outdoors so it is best to encourage them to spend time outdoors in small increments. You will find that over time they will become more comfortable with spending longer periods of time outdoors.
Be mindful of our own reactions: We are all guilty of flinching or even shrieking when startled by a bee or a spider. However, it is important for us to watch our reactions especially when around our child as this can reinforce the idea that bugs are scary. Instead, try to remain calm and respond in an intentional way and your child will be more likely to copy your behavior.
Put things into perspective: Help your child understand they are much bigger than the insects and many of them are just as afraid of your child as your child is of them. Also, remind them that while getting bit or stung hurts so does falling down when running or riding our bike. In fact, we are probably more likely to hurt ourselves doing one of those activities than being bit or stung by an insect.
What are some ideas that you have to help your child overcome a fear of being bit or stung?