Innate Fears

One thing I distinctly remember from my 'Animal Behavior' class was the section on innate fears. Fears you are just born with where the behavior hasn't been learned or modeled for you.

Scientists did studies on captive prairie dogs (those social, dirt hill dwelling critters) by circling cutouts of various shapes over the colonies. They discovered that even the youngest members knew to be afraid of the shape of a hawk, or other raptor, circling overhead despite never having seen a large bird before.

Monkeys fear snakes-seeing as they both live in trees. The monkeys that flee snakes weren't eaten, while those who weren't afraid, became lunch. Aaah, natural selection at its finest. Oh, and this is also why you may fear snakes. Just saying, you big monkey.

This is not to be confused with phobias- irrational fear of something which does you no harm, like the number 13 or clowns (Gacy excepted). You tend to learn phobias.

What are you to do when a fear manifests in your child?

Zoe has had a debilitating fear of the human body since birth. On Halloween, she would freak out over the skeleton decorations so bad, I had to stop going for walks and make friends hide them until we left. She is better about this, but she will still completely shut down just at the thought of seeing an anatomical human diagram.

She is in 4th grade this year, and one of the topics in science at the end of the year is, you guessed it, the human body. Crap.

I immediately emailed her teacher so we could devise a plan so by spring she won't be a basket case at school.

I have been working on slowly getting her used to the systems. Where food goes. How we sense pain. I may get a kiddie book with simple drawings, to get her used to seeing the organs.

I need help to get her into the amazing creation that is your body. Maybe delving into fun topics like: Why do we breathe air not water? Why do dolphins have finger bones in their fins? I am prepared to try anything.

Any and all thoughts you may have on this is appreciated.

Ironically, learning how our bodies work is still my favorite subject. How can my kid be so afraid by that which fascinates me? Ay, Mama!

Filed under: fears in children

Tags: innate fear, phobia

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