talk to kids about bed bugs

What do you tell kids about bed bugs? We like age appropriate facts–

Cari Donaldson gives a child’s perspective on bedbugs at the beginning of one of her blogs. The rest of the post is religious in nature, and quite good, but the first four paragraphs had us laughing out loud. Here it is:

My paternal grandmother, bless her heart, is a prickly woman.  If you take the image of the soft, cookie-baking granny who smells like baby powder and pats your cheek affectionately whenever she sees you, then reverse it, you have my grandma.

One of my most vivid childhood memories of her comes from one of the few times she had me sleep over at her house.  As she was tucking me in, I noticed that the closet door was slightly ajar.  Since everyone knows monsters come out of closets to consume little children at night, I was about to ask my grandma to close it when a picture caught my eye.  For reasons that are still not clear, not even to my adult mind, my grandmother had hung a picture of a bedbug, magnified 1000x, inside the guest room closet door.

Horrified, I asked her what that thing was.  She glanced at it, shrugged, and said, “Oh that?  It’s a bedbug.”  When I asked the natural follow-up question – “What’s a bedbug?” – she brusquely smoothed down the bedspread around me and said, “It’s a bug that lives in your mattress and sucks your blood while you sleep.”

Not too much sleep went on that night.


Laughing aside, this is not the way to speak to children about bedbugs. Bedbugs are nothing to fear. They are simply an insect to avoid and to get rid of. Keeping your residence tidy simplifies getting rid of bedbugs, but bedbugs do not spontaneously generate out of a pile of laundry. Nor are they caused by “being a messy little boy,” as one children’s book claimed.

What do you tell kids about bed bugs? We like age appropriate facts–

Bedbugs are nothing to fear. They are a biting insect. They do not fly like mosquitoes, or jump like fleas, instead they crawl.

Don’t say that bedbugs only bite at night. They can bite during the daytime and there is no reason to make your child afraid to go to sleep.

Bedbugs infest homes, not people. So say, “Our home has bedbugs,” instead of “We have bedbugs.”

Finally, stress that you have called a professional to take care of the problem and show your child the measures that are being taken. Typically, these will include insect interceptors on bed legs and a mattress protector. Insect interceptors are really easy to explain to a small child and can give a great deal of comfort.

Tell the child that the “traps” under the bed legs trap bedbugs when they try to climb onto the bed. These traps are really, really slippery. Bedbugs can’t cross the traps. The traps aren’t dangerous to people, but mustn’t be touched.

Insect Interceptors

Remember, children will share your anxiety, so stay calm. Bedbugs are irritating, annoying, and somewhat creepy, but do not carry disease. With assistance, you will conquer a bedbug infestation and enjoy sweet dreams again.