That’s right; the daughter of a wildlife education officer developed a fear of birds. I can hear you laughing already!
It all started while I was feeding ducks at the park with my daughter. Three mud-splattered ibis swarmed towards us, trying to get a snack or two. My daughter started screaming, shivering and then crying.
So, what did I do? I talked calmly (despite her ripping into my leg and trying to climb me like a ladder); I put the food away, out of sight, and walked away with her attached to my leg.
I don’t blame her, they aren’t the cutest looking birds and the lingering smell when they fly near you, well, let’s just say it’s pungent enough to make anyone’s skin crawl. Just for the record, I don’t dislike ibis, but I wish they were a little less pushy!
Unfortunately, after this encounter, she became very scared every time she saw a bird. While her main fear was of ibis, it wasn’t confined to this species alone. I recall a day then she flew off the handle about a willy-wagtail landing on the fence. A willy-wagtail!
Now when we’re out and about she calmly points out the ibis to me, something she had never done before without a meltdown. I take this as a very positive sign that we are almost over it. I’m certainly no expert, but I wanted to share what I did to get her through this phase.
Help reduce a fear of birds
- I was calm at the initial incident.
- I didn’t avoid places where ibis reside; we stayed far away from them but didn’t avoid them completely.
- I talked about the ibis calmly and in positive way. ‘Look at their long beak, isn’t it amazing?!’ ‘Look at those feathers.’ ‘See how he is trying to eat that bit of fruit?’
- I gave her praise when she saw an ibis and didn’t react, even if it was over 10 meters away!
- We learnt more about birds and talked about them together.
I’m not sure if these were the right things to do, but for now it seems the fear has subsided.
Throughout the entire process I was very careful not to push her too far beyond her comfort levels, as this just tends to make the anxiety more severe (a lesson I learned toilet training her). In my experience, making sure your child feels safe at all times is extremely important.
Do you think they were the right things to do? Does your child have a fear of birds? What steps did you take to reduce or eliminate it?
* I didn’t take a photo of my daughter during one of her meltdowns. I asked her to pretend like she was scared so I could take a photo. Isn’t she a good little actress?!