Toddler Fear

Bee Photo

Image courtesy of SweetCrisis/

This is a story of learning that a fear in a toddler may not be how it appears.

Our 21mo recently developed a deep fear of bees. We haven’t been around bees or wasps since last summer so we aren’t sure where he got the idea that bees might be scary. On the first occurrence he started panicking, crying, and crawling as fast as he could towards us saying, “bee, bee, bee.” It was a month or two ago and he was playing near where we used to have a wasp nest. At the time it seemed to be an isolated incident. But last week he did it again. He started with one panic, then two and three, then he had a hard time getting to sleep that night. The next day it continued.

The first time it happened, we showed him comfort and acknowledged that he saw a bee and he was afraid.  After he panicked a few more times it became obvious that there weren’t any bees. We asked him to show us the bee and at first he wouldn’t, but after awhile he finally pointed to what it was. Once it was a piece of bird seed, another time a piece of lint, and yet another it was a cookie crumb on the floor. We were reading books and doing the bedtime routine and our son would stop every so often and say, “bee, bee.” It wasn’t in quite as much of a panicked voice, but there was still fear.

My husband remembered that our son had a stuffed bee that was given to him some time ago. We pulled that out, gave it to him and told him that it was a friendly bee. That seemed to help. I also told our son that there were no bees in his room. I pretended to spray bee repelant and said, “no bees, no bees.” I don’t think that really convinced him but he did eventually go to sleep after a half hour.

The bee fear continued the next day. Grandma and Grandpa were in town staying with us and after several episodes I realized he was using the bee fear as an excuse to run to me. He greatly enjoyed playing with Grandma and Grandpa but I think he was afraid of spending less time with Mommy. That night it took over an hour to get him to bed as he was afraid of the bee. The next day, Grandma and Grandpa left and we spent lots of quality time together. The bees suddenly disappeared. Not completely, but for the most part they were gone.

He still brings up the bees when he is in a situation where he feels scared. He showed it when I went into another room and he wasn’t sure where I went, when we had a playgroup to go to and he was anxious about it, and a few other times when I’m not sure what the fear was. There is still a problem every time I take a shower, but he isn’t in a panic, he just stands outside and says, “bee, bee, bee, bee,” and when I get out the bee is not mentioned again. Luckily I now know it is not a real bee he is fearing but that he does need me to draw him close and comfort him the best that I can.

What Worked:
Toys, stories, and pictures with bees where the bees are happy and friendly seemed to dissipate the immediate anxiety. (Thanks to some folks on a mama forum for thinking of this!)

Acknowledging his fear and anxiety of whatever the bee is symbolizing, drawing him close and letting him know that I am there and will stay with him until the fear is gone.

Finding other ways to release the energy he is spending on the anxiety, particularly playing hide and seek games that make him laugh.

What didn’t work:
Telling him the bee wasn’t there.

What I would do differently:
I would address the fear more intently immediately. If we had found pictures and toys before it was near bedtime, the bedtime troubles may have been avoided.

Now it’s your turn. Have you had a child with fears? What worked for you?

Relevant links, books, and websites:
Aha! Parenting
Helping your child with fear of bees – Phobia?

Baby Center
Easing Your Toddler’s Fears

Chronicles of a BabyWise Mom
Preschoolers and Fears

Sleep Talk for Children

Baptism by Vomit

Warning for those with sensitive tummiesWe had a new experience this week. On two separate nights, our son awoke with a violent throw-up. He choked, he gagged. The first time he was crying a little, then I turned on the light in his room (after smelling the aroma) and he was so scared of what he saw on him and on his bed he turned pale, started shaking, and cried very hard. I picked him up and held him close. Chunks were smashing between us and falling to the floor. It was such a touching site, I’m sure. The thing is, it really doesn’t stink when it is your own kid’s vomit. I never would’ve believed. I think we are truly baptized into parenthood now that we have taken care of our child spewing vomit all over his room, the bathroom, and everything in-between.

What We Learned
Aside from realizing that we love our child so much his vomit doesn’t stink, we learned:
– The first time a child becomes aware of their own vomit can be a mentally traumatic experience. Our son ended up sleeping with us for the first time since he was a newborn. None of us slept much, but he was able to relax in our bed for the first time ever because he really needed to.
– You never know how many “aftershocks” there will be. A large yogurt container worked well for us to have nearby just in case.
– We should have held his hands away from his mouth when he vomited while in our arms. That would have prevented more clean-up.
–  Vinegar and water will clean up about everything.
– We could have gotten everyone back in bed more quickly if we followed a suggestion on One Good Thing by Jillee to make a baby’s crib with multiple layers of sheets and waterproof layers.
– It was handy to have some candied ginger on hand to make ginger tea. It worked well even though it was old. 1c. water + 1 piece of candied ginger microwaved for 1 min 30 sec, then let it sit until it is as strong as you need. Add cold water until it is cool enough for the child to drink. Another option is to add a little cold apple juice.
– We really didn’t know the cause of the illness so we didn’t want to interfere with what his body needed to do. We learned he is sensitive to heavy meals before bedtime. (read: cream based soup)
– We’ve learned there is a children’s version of antacids available for those with sensitive tummies. Note it is not recommended to use these until the child is 2 without a pediatrician’s approval.
Having a partner to get a load of laundry in immediately is priceless.

Now it’s your turn. Any lessons you can share from having a sick toddler?

Relevant links, books, and websites:


Adventures in Vomiting