My normally chill 2 1/2 year old has had several panicky sessions this week. Today, she had an inch worm on her in the car and was very scared by it. This afternoon, though there was no bug on her, she was screaming (really yelling) pretty steadily for about 30 minutes, clawing at her skin, shaking, totally panicked, thinking that there was another inchworm on her body. It took her about 1 1/2 hours to calm down, with repeated panicky sessions. She basically totally lost it and could not regain her composure for a very long time, though both my husband and I were right there and holding her. She wanted up to repeatedly rub her skin (arms, legs, feet, fingers, neck) with a wet wipe to make sure that no bug was on her skin.
This also happened one night this week when she had a dream about a bug. She wanted to stay perched on my stomach (or my husband's stomach) and would not touch the bed or the blanket. Again, it took about 1 1/2 hours for her to calm down and she was really shaking and crying.
Is this normal behavior for a 2 1/2 year old or not? (I'm concerned she may have more than usual anxiety, it runs in the family...)
Mama to H (3/18/08) and A (8/25/09)
Not sure about "normal" but talking about worms and bugs might normalize the fear. It runs on my side of the family too and I think dealing with them as they come up is the best way to go.
She really needs to be desensitized to it because bugs and worms are a reality and she needs to be able to function without these crippling episodes. I'd start out by gently talking about worms and how they serve a purpose in our ecosystem ... find some books with accurate pictures. If she can comprehend their role and function they might seem less like animals of terror and more like poor little animals that lost their way. Maybe watch a bit of Microcosmos (awesome documentary on Netflix now) and then gradually work her up to being around a live one.
But be gentle and don't force her to talk or look at anything before she is ready. When she is freaking out just empathize and say how scared she must have been but don't reinforce anything negative about the bug ... maybe even drop in a word about how scared it might have been too so she can start to consider it beyond her point of view.
How do you feel about bugs? You might have to put in a few good words about them.
Thanks for the reply! I actually like bugs.We checked out a bug video from the library recently and we've talked about how we need bugs, etc. We've coincidentally also been reading Charlotte's Web recently! I've modeled scooping them up and putting them back outside. I'm really not sure where the fear came from, maybe school?
When she had the bug nightmare, we talked about what color the bug was, that is was a friendly bug, etc, but she wasn't buying it. Ditto with the inchworm. (She told me it's a BAD one.)
In any case, I think our reaction was probably pretty good, and supportive. I think she'll get over her fear with some more work. I just worry about her over-the-top panic and the sensory component of it.
Mama to H (3/18/08) and A (8/25/09)
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