Overcoming Fears of Bugs

bug.jpgToday, Hillary of Mass Audubon shares tips on befriending bugs:

If you caught my last post about dragonflies, you will know that my daughter's fear of bugs borders on insanity. Lucky for me, I work for a wildlife organization where bugs are revered. In order to tackle this fear head on -- both for my daughter's benefit and to share with those of you wrestling with the same issue -- I checked in with Tia Pinney, teacher naturalist extraordinaire at Drumlin Farm, and Bob Speare, camp director at Wildwood, Mass Audubon's overnight camp for advice. Here's what I learned.
Why are kids afraid?

According to Pinney, fear of bugs is a learned behavior, which means a child learns to be afraid either by watching a parent (ahem) react or another kid or teacher at school. There's also fear of the unknown -- they don't know what the bug is and they don't trust it.

What can you do about it?

  • Don't make a big deal about it. The more a parent fusses about bugs, the worse the reaction will become. Don't force bug encounters, but embrace opportunities as they arise.

  • Focus on a feature. When you see a bug, point out something interesting like size, color, pattern, and behavior. Ask questions that require observation such as, "Why do you think all the ants are walking in a line?" Show curiosity and eventually your child will learn that behavior too.

  • Start with "good" bugs. Some insects are easier to like then others, such as the butterfly. By learning everything you can about them, it will be easier to bridge the gap to less likable bugs.

  • Keep your own fears in check. Kids are really good at watching how parents react. When a bug makes an appearance, be as calm and matter of fact as possible.

  • Get creative. After your visit to a field or garden, go home and make a drawing of the bugs you saw together. Hang it up to show your pleasure in it.

  • Take a closer look. When ready, you may want to examine bugs up close, making these observations even more personal. If you're working in the garden, you may get a colorful or interesting looking bug safely into a jar and share your enthusiasm by bringing it to your child. After releasing it, learn together by finding out some basic facts about the insect.

    Speare adds: "The important things to do are go slow, watch reactions carefully, and make each step a positive experience. Insects and other invertebrates are a fascinating part of our animal world. Turning fear and misunderstanding into curiosity and wonder will lead to a healthy respect for all life."

    Additional resources

    Here are a few bug books recommended by the staff at the Audubon Shop at Drumlin Farm to get you started:

  • Peterson First Guide to Butterflies & Moths by Paul Opler
  • Golden Guide to Insects by Herbert Zim
  • Dorling Kindersley Smithsonian Bug Hunter: Explore Nature with More than 30 Fun Activities
  • Bugs and Bugsicles: Insects in Winter by Amy Hansen
  • A Place for Butterflies by Melissa Stewart

    Image credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

  • FamilyChristine KohComment