Monday, July 12, 2010

Bugging out

One morning recently Little Guy and Big Guy woke up with bug bites all over their legs. We rarely get mosquitoes here in the city -- an oddity I don't understand but do appreciate -- and Little Guy was rather alarmed. Apparently he'd learned (somewhere) that mosquitoes can carry diseases. I explained that the incidence of malaria and West Nile Virus was low in the urban northeast, but that didn't assuage his fear.

The bites were numerous enough that the next night I sprayed both boys with bug repellant. Little Guy woke up bite-free, but Big Guy did not. Big Guy had slept with the door to his room closed, so we knew the problem originated in  his room. We then remembered that we'd opened the upper half of Big Guy's window one very hot night, and it was screenless. Ah. Mystery solved.

The mosquitoes have now mostly disappeared, but Little Guy is still very anxious about them at bedtime. Anxiety is the anti-lullaby of the month around here: Snuggler wrestles with it, too. I'm sure it's related to the Big Guy trauma. I tried to explain to Little Guy last night about the window, but he was too wrought-up to process that. It was late, I was tired, and I did the lame-mom thing and sprayed him with insect repellant again so he could fall asleep.

Bug spray is not a real solution, of course. Phobias grow the more you avoid the occasion of dealing with them. But impromptu exposure therapy isn't really an option with mosquitoes (or if it is, I'm not gonna run out and catch a few just to try it). Step #2 in the phobia-fighting arsenal is to challenge flaws in logical thinking, but that isn't very effective with children (or at least my children!) before about age 10. What works around here is asking "Well, what would we do if X happened?" Kids often don't know that there is a next step, and another one after that, and another one after that. So today I'll be asking how we'd know if a mosquito bite gave us West Nile, and what we'd do if we had that symptom, and what we'd do if it didn't seem to get better, and so on.

There's a nice little summary of approaches for dealing with phobias here. It's not written about kids specifically, but it has some good ideas in it.


  1. Hmm, maybe that'll help get over the hurdle of jumping off the diving board and/or learning to ride the two wheeler?

  2. We opened a screenless window on one of the real hot nights, too, and Zeke got a bunch of bites, that he's still talking about....

  3. Exact same thing happened here! Top window open, bites in the a.m. But with a West Nile Virus expert in the house who says risk is almost nil, no one is worried about much more than the discomfort of itching!