Afraid of all things wiggly. When natural curiosity doesn’t win out.
As adults we are sometimes astounded by the lack of fear demonstrated by children. They seem to be not afraid of jumping from heights or trying something new. We envy them their natural curiosity.
But in some instances, the child’s natural curiosity doesn’t win out. A number of children have a fear of insects, bugs and other creepy crawlies. Keepyourchildsafe.org says that this fear can be one of the most stubborn fears to deal with as most humans have some degree of aversion to insects.
As a parent, you try your hardest to introduce your toddler to nature in all of its forms. Walking in a park can become an adventure as you point out butterflies, birds and lizards to your child. A trip to the ocean where they can see dolphins, seals and fish could be your way of introducing different animal life. A visit to the local zoo or animal park can be exciting to a young child who have never seen exotic animals. But sometimes it’s the smallest of creatures that provokes a response that you never imagined.
An innocent moth fluttering against their bedroom window, a spider lurking on the bathroom wall or your own scared reaction to an insect could turn your normally unfazed child into one who is deathly afraid. It could be just the most innocent of creatures that could cause your child to be overcome by an overwhelming feeling of anxiety or have a panic attack which can cause physical symptoms, such as:
- hot flushes or chills
- shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- a choking sensation
- rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
- pain or tightness in the chest
- a sensation of butterflies in the stomach
- headaches and dizziness
- feeling faint
- numbness or pins and needles
- dry mouth
- a need to go to the toilet
- ringing in ears
- confusion or disorientation (nhs.uk 14.01.16)
These fears and symptoms are not to be laughed off or ignored. Your child might not have a small aversion to these creatures that can be brushed off as unimportant or that they will grow out of it. It could be a phobia.
What’s a phobia?
A phobia is an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something and unless you have suffered one yourself or experienced one in others you may not understand what your child is going through. Some of the most common phobias around creepy crawlies are:
Arachnophobia — a fear of spiders
Entomophobia — a fear of insects
Lepidopterophobia — a fear of butterflies or moths
Myrmecophobia — a fear of ants
Ophidiophobia — a fear of snakes
Fortunately, most phobias are quite treatable. In general, they are not a sign of serious mental illness requiring many months or years of therapy. However, if your child’s anxieties persist and interfere with her enjoyment of day-to-day life, she might benefit from some professional help from a psychiatrist or psychologist who specialises in treating phobias. (Healthy.children.org 06.01.2007)
What Parents Can Do:
Here are some suggestions from healthy.children.org that many parents find useful for their children with fears and phobias.
- Talk with your child about his anxieties, and be sympathetic. Explain to him that many children have fears, but with your support he can learn to put them behind him.
- Do not belittle or ridicule your child’s fears, particularly in front of his peers.
- Do not try to coerce your youngster into being brave. It will take time for him to confront and gradually overcome his anxieties. You can, however, encourage (but not force) him to progressively come face-to-face with whatever he fears.
- If you are concerned see your health professional
It may take a bit of effort from you, but remember that fears are a normal part of life and parents should be sympathetic of their child’s anxieties.If you suffer from the same or similar anxieties helping your child you may also help yourself.