Overcoming a Bee Sting Trauma

My son was 3 this summer, and one day, while playing out in a friend's yard, he was attacked by bees–I think they were yellow jackets. Both my husband and I were there, and came to his rescue right away, but he was stung 8 times before it was all over. He was in a lot of pain, and really terrified.

Courtesy of Debi Pressley
Photo by Debi Pressley

We packed ice on his stings, and left the place right away. He screamed at the top of his lungs all the way home, a half-hour ride. I held him, looked into his eyes, and told him again and again that we were sorry he got stung. I told him we knew it hurt, and that he could scream as much as he needed to. I told him we would stay with him, and that he was doing just the right thing. He screamed a long, long time. I would never wish this experience on any child!

For weeks afterwards, he was terrified to go outside. He was terrified of anything that flew, indoors or outdoors. He couldn't go outdoors without crying hard. He refused to be outside at all. It was a beautiful summer, and in Buffalo, you want to be outdoors, because the rest of the year you're indoors all the time!

So I reread the Healing Children's Fears booklet, and decided to try some of the ideas there, both Playlistening and Staylistening, to help him with this big fear.

I began playing this game with him where I would buzz and “fly” up to him, pretending I was a bee. After a little bit of playing around this way, he came up with a way to take the powerful role. He would say, “Baba!!” which was his version of “Boo!” and I would scream and “fly” away, scared, saying, “What was that?!” Ohh, I'm scared!” He would laugh hard, and we would begin again.

He loved this game. My whole family got into it–my husband played it, my Mom played it with him, and sometimes, all three of us would play it together. He would scare us and, each time, we would run away “frightened,” and he would laugh and ask for more.

I did something else, too, along the lines of Staylistening. Rather than wait for him to want to go outside, something he had absolutely no desire to do, I decided to take him for a little walk every day. I held him the whole time. He would begin crying the minute we went out the door, and he clung to me for dear life. I told him we would only stay outside for as long as he wanted, but that we needed to go outside, and that he was safe. The first time, he cried for a few minutes, and then wanted to go in, so we did. The second time, he also cried, but it took a little longer before he said he wanted to come in. Every day we did this, and every day, he cried hard but he stayed out longer than the day before. While he was crying, I would look at him, hold him, and tell him I was keeping him safe. I didn't know how much to push him, so we did this a little at a time.

He finally got over his fears. We could tell when he had cried and played the bee game enough. We knew he had come through it when we were outside and an insect came near him he said “Baba!” Of course, the insect randomly flew away. He was very proud of himself. He would say, “See, Mama! I made it go away!”

The final victory day was the day that he was playing over in a corner of the yard and he called me, “Mama, come see!” I went over to him, and he showed me a really big bee sitting on his shoe. He said, “Look Mama, there's a bee on my shoe,” but he was totally relaxed about it. I said, “Yes, there it is. Do you want to kick it off?” and he said, “Yes,” and kicked his foot. The bee flew away, and he kept playing. It was a totally ordinary thing.

I felt like a great Mom! We had figured out how to help him on something that was absolutely terrifying. He has remained unafraid of insects–it's as if that incident had never happened.

I don’t' know what I would have done without the booklet on Healing Children's Fears. It really helped me. The games worked great, and listening to him cry was hard, but it seemed like the right thing to do. It was so helpful to have some idea of what to do to help him, and to have it work so well. — a mother in Buffalo, NY

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