I am passionate about gardening as a way to connect us to our food, and I enjoy spending time in the outdoors, connecting with the plants and animals that live amongst us. I believe that this may be the only way to have people truly care about protecting the environment and see that our well being is tied to a healthy planet. I also believe in the power of modelling and education to shape children's perceptions and behaviours. The best way to desensitize children to the "ick" factor and sensitize them to the diversity of life around us is to spend time in nature.
|My daughter mistakes any flying insect for the stinging|
variety, even harmless flies.
However, I am also aware that children often come out with their own fully developed personalities and temperaments, and this has been one of the most challenging aspects of parenting for me.
This past summer I struggled with a daughter who does not want to spend time outdoors; "I've had enough fresh air, can I go inside now please?" She has always preferred indoor pursuits, but in the past has been willing to engage in outdoor play with some encouragement (usually because her sisters are outdoors and she wants to be with them). She is a sensitive person who can have strong sensory reactions to situations. This past summer a series of events occurred that affected her deeply (multiple insect bites and stings), and she refuses to go outdoors. When she does, she constantly scans the air and ground for insects, and imagines insects crawling on her when she feels an itch or breeze on her skin. While her anxieties are understandable, it presents many challenges.
|The dreaded wasps. This variety is especially aggressive.|
I have continued to encourage her to spend time outside in our backyard and at parks. Together we read information in books and on the internet about insects, animals and plants that we see in our backyard garden. We have talked about the important role that each insect plays in the ecosystem. I make sure to limit her exposure to situations where I know she will be stressed (and made the decision to cancel a camping trip because of her extreme anxieties). We have also limited eating food outdoors because of the insects that food attracts.
|Many insects are hibernating or dwindling|
for the colder seasons, but the sight of this
sends my daughter into fits.
When we find insects in the house I make sure to remove them in humane ways. For example, despite pleading on her part to squish any spider we find, I use a glass to capture them and put them outside. As I do this I take the opportunity to make observations about the spider with my girls (all while squelching my inner desire to scream and run away). Already I have seen spin-off benefits from this; my oldest daughter has taken on the role of spider whisperer when I am not available, and I am so proud of her. Incidentally, overcoming my fear of spiders began when I had children.
|You know a spider is big when you can see the stripes|
on its back. We find these inside all the time.
My fearful daughter has made some growth and occasionally will join me in my garden for very brief periods of time, but I fear that if I don't help her, next spring and summer will continue to be torturous for both her and me.
So I turn to you now for some suggestions to help me help my daughter overcome her fears and begin to enjoy time outdoors again.
Have you overcome a fear of creepy crawlies? What has helped you? Do you have any suggestions to help me?