Whenever a child fears bees and wasps but not other types of flying insects, it typically has something to do with fears over being stung. Here are some ideas to help calm their phobia:
Calming fears among children who are allergic
If your child is allergic, then these fears aren’t entirely irrational. They should have a certain degree of anxiety. You just need to help them manage the situation without panicking. Often excessive fears arise because of a traumatic memory from the first time they were stung. So remind them that their epipen is close by to help them breathe should they get stung again. Talk about how you now know how to respond, so it won’t be the same experience as it was before. You might also give them this knowledge: sometimes people outgrow allergies to stinging insects, so it’s even possible they won’t have any reaction at all the next time. Talking about these things is often enough to turn down the fear dial to a level they are able to manage.
Helping kids overcome a fear of stinging insects
- Kids tend to obsess over certain pains disproportionately to others (shots, bee stings, etc.), and end up psyching themselves out, exaggerating how bad it will actually be. So help a child put the pain in perspective. Yes, getting stung would hurt, but so does falling down and scraping a knee. Yet this doesn’t keep you from walking, running, or riding your bike… all activities where injuries typically happen a lot more often than bee stings do. Thus, even if her worst fears come true and she gets stung, it probably won’t be nearly as bad as she thinks it will be.
- Help kids understand that bees and wasps aren’t out to sting them. They use their stingers as a defense, and bumblebees even die after having stung someone. So bees and wasps have no desire to sting you unless they feel threatened. They’re too busy going about their business.
- Arm them with information. Talk about why bees might sting, and discuss how they can lower the odds of being stung: Standing still when one buzzes around or lands on them, avoiding areas where bees congregate (like around trash cans), and knowing how to spot a wasp’s nest. (See our child safety book for more information on sting prevention.) Such knowledge helps a child feel empowered, and the more control they feel, the less afraid they’ll be.
- Once again, watch your own reactions. Children who see you dance around hysterically whenever a bee strolls by will internalize fears of their own, and any little bit of anxiety you show may be amplified tenfold by them. So as hard as it might be, try to keep from squirming at the sight of stinging insects yourself.
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