How to Help a Child Overcome Fear of Bugs

Fear of certain creatures is passed on from parental example and the brain's clever ability to learn quickly that some animals are to be feared.[1] Thus, it is both how you react as a parent or guide that teaches your child to fear bugs but it can also be how a child can learn to move beyond a fear that you or someone else has instilled in them. If you'd like to help a child overcome a fear of bugs, just be sure you're okay with the bugs too!


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    Check your own reaction to bugs. If you swat, squash and spray every bug you come across, you know precisely where the child's fear stems from. To avoid being the example that triggers the bug fear, it might be time to learn as much as you can about your own fear of bugs so that you too can overcome the fear and help the child to break through this. There is always a place for relearning your original response and becoming more knowledgeable and less scared about the bugs you encounter in your life. If it's someone else who has instilled this fear in the child, you can be the bug's champion, showing the child a whole other side to the things he or she has learned up to this point.
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    Talk to your child about bugs. The things that you say have a big impact on how your child learns about the world. If you are positive and reassuring about bugs, your child will pick up on the tone and learn that not everyone screws their nose up at bugs.
    • Ask your child what he or she finds worrying about bugs. This can spark a conversation about why that aspect is not something to be worried about, especially if you can explain what the bug's life is all about and what it uses different features for, such as gathering food, defending itself, caring for its own babies, etc.
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    Borrow some books from the library or download an ebook or pdf materials about bugs. Look for the most child-accessible, colorful and interesting information about bugs that you can find. (Your librarian will likely be helpful if you don't know where to start.) Read through the materials before sitting down with your child, so that you know what's in it and can be ready with answers and helpful comments. Choose a quiet time to sit down together and learn about the life and contributions of bugs.
    • Find the good things that bugs do, as well as some quirky and curiosity-piquing things. Your child will be fascinated by the intricacies of the world of bugs, along with some detailed images.
    • Consider using video materials as well. There are many excellent video resources available online (or through library DVDs) that will help your child to learn more about bugs.
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    Try to find some audio material as well. If your child is afraid of the noises made by bugs, it can help to listen to things such as bug calls, wing movements, clicking sounds, etc., along with explanations of what the bug is actually doing when these noises are being made.
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    Check out some bugs together. Start with places that are close to your child, such as your kitchen or vegetable garden, where most of the bugs are benign (to you at least) and some are even beautiful. Go out into the garden and deliberately look for bugs. Find the safe ones, such as a praying mantis, a ladybug or a butterfly and let them alight upon your hand. Show your child how gentle and beautiful the bugs are.
    • Look on and under the leaves of plants. Here is a great opportunity to explain how some bugs benefit the garden and others eat your favorite plants. You might even teach your child how to get rid of the nuisance bugs in an environmentally caring way and how to promote the good bugs. In this way, you'll have both a bug and a gardening lesson in one, which also helps to teach children how everything in nature is interconnected, including us.
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    Teach your child how to react calmly if a bug lands on him or her. Ask your child to stay calm so as to avoid the unhelpful actions of screaming and jumping up and down, which tend to just frighten the child even more and heighten anxiety. Most bugs land on humans inadvertently and even the ones after a meal can be dealt with sensibly if you take a moment to calm down and respond quickly and safely.
    • Teach your child the difference between bugs that cannot harm human beings (for example ladybugs, grasshoppers, many garden-variety bugs) and those that may cause harm if they bite or sting, such as wasps, bees, ticks, mosquitoes, etc. However, even with bugs that can do harm, teach prevention and treatment rather than instilling fear. Your child will feel much safer if he or she knows what to do to avoid being bitten or stung and knows also what to do in the case of this happening. Fear simply causes panic and rash reactions that can delay proper treatment and can lead to unhealthy attitudes towards our fellow creatures, so it is best to help your child help him- or herself to respond sensibly as best as possible.
    • You can also teach your child how to recognize household pests in a way that instills an understanding of the human role as well as the bug's role. For example, help your child to spot the signs of bedbugs, fleas and silverfish. Help your child to see that by accumulating food sources and comfortable living spaces, we encourage such bugs to live with us. Explain how these bugs are a nuisance in the home and that they have their place on Earth but not in your personal living space; explain further how to keep the house free of such bugs by keeping clean, washing clothes and bedding often, using insect repellent sachets, vacuuming regularly, wiping down benches, etc. and using organic ways to rid the house of such bugs if they get out of hand. If you don't mind spiders, you can also teach your child how having spiders in the house can reduce the bugs too; there are plenty of spiders that won't harm humans that can perform this helpful service for you. In this way, you can help your child to realize that we live alongside many creatures and it is, for the most part, manageable.
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    Consider making a bug house. This can be either in the garden, by providing shelter for certain bugs, or inside the house. Having the chance to observe, feed and nurture a colony of friendly bugs can help your child to learn a great deal about these little creatures and lose more of that fear. Some examples of what you might like to build include: A ladybug house, an insect hotel or an ant farm.
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    Take the opportunity to help your child grow to cherish nature. You have a great opportunity to help your child to grow up in awe and wonder rather than in fear. It is also an opportunity for you and other family members to learn and to change your own thinking about bugs. The more you learn, the less fear you will have and the more admiration you'll have, as well as knowing when and how to take greater care, as needed.


  • If you homeschool or spend time helping your child to learn extra-curricular information, bugs make for excellent scientific and natural knowledge building activities. From drawings and ant farms to expeditions and science fair projects, bugs might be just the way to make lessons a whole lot more fun!
  • Show your child fruit flies. Leave an apple on a plate outside to rot. The fruit flies will soon arrive. Your child will learn from observing them how fruit flies are an important part of helping to remove rotting organic matter. For older children, you can also discuss how useful fruit flies are scientifically, as they share a high percentage of our DNA and breed quickly, allowing us to use them for many experiments based on genetics that can ultimately help us to to find cures for inherited diseases and medical conditions. Many useful references to the role of the fruit fly can be found easily by doing an online search.
  • The term "bug" is used very loosely in this article. It tends to apply in the vernacular to any creeping, crawly, buzzing or flying small creature.


  • Make sure the child does not try to touch a bug that is poisonous and is better to help him/her be reminded to stay away from that bug.
  • Try to find the least toxic and least disruptive way to remove bugs from your home. This is important both for the health of your child, family and pets and for not going overboard on sanitizing your life.

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Categories: Fear of Animals and Insects | Childhood Fears and Phobias