Son Is TERRIFIED - Please Advise

Updated on October 06, 2006
N.B. asks from Allen, TX
5 answers

My 6 year old son is terrified of spiders. May not sound like it is such a big deal, but it is going to be in a couple of weeks. I just got an e-mail from his teacher that read:

I wanted to talk to you about the week we return from Fall Break. Our station theme will be "spiders". Your son has expressed that he has a fear of spiders and gets very upset (almost inconsolable) when other students look at books about spiders, talk about spiders, etc. I wanted to give you a heads up and let you know so maybe you can prepare him for that week. Please let me know if you have any suggestions on ways I can help him with this.

When I shared the e-mail with my son last night, he just started crying. Every time we try to talk with him about it, he cries. Any suggestions aon how to help him through this?

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answers from Dallas on

I don't agree with having him face the fear head on. That will probably make the situation worse and he could end up with worse anxiety. I think he needs to eventually get exposure to the fear, but before that he needs to have coping skills to deal with his fear and anxiety. I think he needs to be able to cope with the anxiety he has about spiders first. I agree that a therapist maybe could help him figure out why he's so scared. And then help him rationalize his fears. And then once he has his coping skills/tools in place, then let him work toward getting over the fear.
I wish you the best of luck.



answers from Dallas on

Sounds like a little play therapy might help. There are a couple of wonderful Licensed Play Therapists at the Pastoral Counseling and Education Center on Lemmon Ave. in Oak Lawn. Your insurance may cover it as well. If not, because they are a nonprofit, they may allow you to pay on a sliding scale. You can also go online and look up Play Therapy in Dallas and see what comes up.

Something you might try at home with him is art. Give him some paints, crayons, markers or playdough. Have him create his fear in the form of art. Play with puppets. See if you can find a spider puppet. Rent the movie Charlotte's Web. Charlotte is such a sweet spider, I can't imagine anyone fearing her. There's also some books like Misses Spider that might help. Ask your local librarian what books she might recommend.

Good luck!



answers from Dallas on

Hi Adrienne,
I would address the WHY he is afraid of spiders. Was there a traumatic encounter? Once addressing that, I would ask him---even maybe draw a poster board about your discussion---what is he afraid of. He may say "it may jump on me" then address what if it did jump on him and what he would do or would think would happen. Sometimes we make things a bigger fear than if we talk about what we are afraid of, what would happen if what we feared happened, and so forth. You may ask him how he thinks you can help him decrease his fear---sometimes their suggestions are better than we would have guessed.

If you do not feel things are getting clear or is irrational definitely seek some play therapy. I hate spiders too so I understand.

Good luck,



answers from Dallas on

Okay, just to show you that I didn't just pull this advice out of thin air, here's and article from the American Physchological Association on fighting childhood fears... and an excerpt from it..."At the end of the session, the children face their very worst fears, perhaps petting a dog or even walking one on a leash." Just to let you know also, that I have helped some children over their fears of dogs or cats in my home by gently introducing them to the animal and modeling behavior (petting or hugging the cat to show it won't hurt me). Parents have been impressed that their child actually pet the cat- never had before. I've been a nanny for many years. The worst thing to do is let your child live with the fear and comfort or hold them- just makes it worse because you're encouraging the fear. I'm not saying don't comfort your child when he's crying hysterically, but if they're afraid of something and you immediately pick them up or something, they just get worse over time.

Earlier post:
Well, from what I've learned, the best way to get someone over a fear is to face it head-on. Saw a show on childhood fears and they worked with kids to show them slowly over time that whatever they're afraid of is not really scary. They made the children do or face whatever it was they were afraid of. My suggestion to you (I hope this doesn't sound outlandish) is to buy a pet spider- usually a tarantula. They can make good pets, as they don't require much maintenance and don't bite or anything. I would just take him with you to get it or something- hype it up as "you're getting a pet- just for you" and give it a name. If he's deathly afraid, just keep it somewhere he doesn't have to go and slowly over time, help him to see it's not bad or mean or scary. I hope this helps!



answers from Dallas on

Oh I feel his pain! I'm terrified of scorpians only to find one had been packed up in our belongings (actually in my daughters shoe) & drove home with us from the Hill Country to Richardson. Luckily, it was a baby one & I was able to catch it.

I highly suggest seeing a therapist or talk to your pediatrician on this matter. It was very nice that your sons teacher gave you a heads up & knew of his fear.

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