Help Kids Deal with Anxiety About Black Bears

Young black bear sitting in a field

My two boys aren’t exactly afraid of black bears. But we live in bear country, and we are thinking about moving a few miles out of town. While exploring a beautiful wooded property yesterday, we came upon some bear scat. When the boys found out, I could tell that they felt nervous. Buying a house is stressful enough without adding unnecessary fears. To ease their worries, we are going to celebrate these icons of our wild places in three steps.

1. Just the Facts

When it comes to feeling safe, the facts are on our side. A logical look at the information demonstrates that there is little reason to fear. According to the North American Bear Center (NABC), fewer than 75 people have been killed by black bears since 1900. Obviously, that’s less than one fatal attack per year across the entire continent.

While every death is tragic and should not be taken lightly, according to the NABC, many could have been avoided. In most cases, the bears attack because they are surprised and feel threatened. By making plenty of noise while moving around outdoors—not a problem for our two boys—the risk of a bear encounter is incredibly small. Keep a safe distance after spotting a bear. For older children (and adults), a can of pepper spray adds yet another layer of security that might help everyone feel prepared.

2. Books About Black Bears

More good news about these majestic mammals—they are adorable! Gather the family, grab a photograph-heavy book, and enjoy. My favorite option is Bears by Stan Tekiela. The pictures are spectacular, and the natural-history information is fascinating. The book also features brown bears and polar bears, an added bonus. The topics range from their furry coats to communication to hibernation. By the time the kids finish Bears, they will be experts who look forward to moving.

Bears and Baby Bear Discovers the World books

Admittedly, younger children might not appreciate the in-depth discussion (although they’ll love the photographs). For them, a book like Baby Bear Discovers the World might be a nice substitution. It still has Stan Tekiela’s photography, and it’s a heartwarming story about a cub who ventures into the wilderness.

3. Trip to the Zoo

With anxiety levels decreased and with interests piqued, the final step is to show the children real-live black bears. A visit to the zoo is a fun and safe way to see the animals lumber about. While their impressive size might be a jolt, their nonchalant mannerisms are anything but scary.

By this point, the children shouldn’t just be over their bear anxiety and excited about moving, they might start asking to get one as a pet! It’s proof that a little bit of information and experience can go a long way toward easing one’s fears. Hopefully, it makes buying a house (and seeing bears in the backyard) more exciting for everyone.