Friday, April 25, 2008

What do you do when...

Your child develops an irrational and debilitating fear of something? Recently Emma has developed a fear of BUGS of any kind... even the tiniest bugs like gnats and ants. One day about 1 1/2 weeks ago she just freaked out while in the car and screamed like a victim in a horror movie. John almost wrecked the car it scared him so badly.

Four days ago she refused to do one of her favorite activities, side walk chalk, and shook violently at the sight of an ant. Later, she refused to move from a spot in the middle of the back yard because I made the mistake of telling her that she didn't need to be afraid, bugs were every where in the back yard (above ground and below) and the didn't and wouldn't hurt her. Later (after about 2 hours of her standing in one spot screaming) we convinced her to get in the sand box, into the nice NEW , clean sand. I was a few feet away when she shrieked and sobbed because of one ant in the sand box.

I don't know what happened, the only thing I can think of is that she had a bad dream or something but I can't seem to get a clear answer about it. I know I need/ we need to comfort her but I don't want to over do it (as in John and I have told her we will give her hugs but we refuse to carry her around in the back yard or hold her off the ground)... and I know that if I ignore her behavior it could foster feelings of abandonment and make things worse.

I have been wracking my brain to come up with things to make her feel like she is in control, and to show her that bugs are good and that it's OK to not like them but she doesn't have to be afraid of them.

Soooo, this is what I have come up with, I hope it works! Emma got some toy lizards for her birthday from Anna from Target, and they had some matching buggies on sale. My idea is to have her get used to bugs by playing with these, they basically are from David Kirk's Miss Spider/Sunny Patch.

Also, we bought her a magic pair of sunglasses in the right side of the picture below that have butterflies on them, and the lenses flip out to the sides. They are magic because bugs will see that she is friendly since the glasses have butterflies, and the bugs will decide to be very nice to Em and not hurt her. If they do fly on her, they are just there to give her a buggy kiss to say thank you for showing that she is ok with bugs.

If THAT doesn't work, we have also bought her a spray bottle that I will fill with "bug spray" (thanks for the idea Ash!) that will have water with a dash of febreeze for scent. She can spray the bugs if she gets scared while we are out, not to "kill" them but to remind them to be nice. ;)

I hope something works because I hate to see my baby shaking in terror because of an ant :(

Did you go through this ( irrational fears) with your child? How did you get them through this phase? Any help would be appreciated!

*photos are borrowed from Bug Safari*


Cindy said...

I think it's great you're trying to help your daughter overcome her fear of bugs. How old is she?

Take it easy for starters with just one or two casual bug references/mentions/images every day or so. Visit your local library and look for educational insect books at her age level. Start with books of cute, friendly insects like butterflies and ladybugs and save the scarier ones (spiders, etc.) for later. Education is the best way to counteract fears, for any subject.

Oh, and be careful with any kind of cleaner/solvent in a "bug spray". Even greatly diluted, it could still harm the bugs, not to mention sting your eyes.

Thanks for visiting and linking to Bug Safari.

Holly Schwendiman said...

Bugger! (no pun intended!) These parenting challenges are sure that - challenges! I think the spray will be the most helpful. My son has always been terrified of bugs too. To this day he won't go into their bathroom to use the toilet because there was once a small spider in the tub when he went it and he's never forgotten it. But there is redemption because this year his science unit at school was on lady bugs and he LOVED it! We've had to look into a personal lady bug farm for him as a result! So don't give up. ;)


Becoming Me said...

I just found your blog today from A Flyover Blog. I'm so glad I did. I have a four year daughter and a 1 year old son. Anxieties are not new to my daughter. I am thinking they are just phases. Last year, she was horribly afraid of going down the drain and wouldn't even bathe unless I got my then 8 month pregnant self into the tub with her. Occasionally, my hubby would put on his swim suit and take a shower with her, but even that was too much for her. The fear was horrible and lasted for months and then finally went away. I tried all kinds of things but nothing worked until I got in with her and even that didn't work at first. Now is is afraid to ride her bike, and afraid of heights, and the sliding board and any type of bug, etc. It gets frustrating at times, but I don't do anything to push her. I am just praying it will run its course and move on. I just do my best to make her feel safe and loved.

I think your ideas are great.

Pamela said...

Get her an ant farm. Really,.

Jay said...

Wow, this brought back some memories! I remember being about six and digging in the earth and disturbing an ant nest. The suddenly appearance of all those tiny scurrying things, running everywhere, even on ME, was terrifying. I had a fear of ants for quite some time, and I too would literally stand and shake. However, my father was an entomologist. Eventually, the good associations outweighed the bad - field trips out on sunny days into the countryside from London helped - and now I have a positive fascination with insects. There is hope. Just don't rush her.

science for kids said...

I would like to know myself what ends up helping Emma. My nephew is afraid of most any little creature outside, and I am starting to really worry about him. Even butterflies send him into hysterics, and I am afraid the other boys will tease him for it.
Keep us updated on what solves the problem!

~Virginia~ said...

aw! poor kid. that's an interesting fear though. sounds like you're doing your best to deal with it--such a good mommy. hope these ideas work for her!

Sue said...

OK, here is an alternative approach*: Expose her to information about bugs (try: Judy Allen's Backyard Books - they rock). If she persists in her irrational fear tell her to get over it. I'm serious, sometimes we have to tell our kids, "Hey! You are safe. Nothing is hurting you. You are being unreasonable. Knock it off!"

I know, it sounds cruel. But if we indulge her fears, she may believe that they are well-founded (which they are not); that she SHOULD be afraid. A loving, but no-nonsense approach could really help.

It's kind of like when your kids takes swimming lessons and is afraid to put her head under. You have to just push them under a few times before they realize it is safe and OK. Seems harsh, but it works.

Good luck!

* assuming your child is over 5 or 6.