Parenting Tips: Fear of Storms
We just went through a night of heavy storms. While my husband and I usually enjoy the light show of a good summertime thunderstorm, this one was a doozy. Severe thunderstorm watches turned into warnings until finally the dreaded tornado warning was issued.
While we weren’t afraid, our toddler-age daughter was; the thunder was booming, the lightning was like a strobe light outside and, through it all, the tornado siren sounded its eerie whine. At one point in the late afternoon, the sky was dark as night and the street lights came on, our daughter wouldn’t leave our sides.
How to Weather the Storm
- First of all, seek shelter and be safe. Stay indoors and away from windows and electrical appliances – lightning can travel through pipes and electrical outlets. Explain to kids that they are safe inside.
- Acknowledge the fear. If your child is afraid, let him or her be afraid – don’t ignore it or belittle them. Try to talk to them about it, such as what it is exactly that they are afraid of. Just verbalizing the fear might help to reduce it.
- Explain what’s going on. Talk to your children about thunder and lightning, such as what causes them.
- Tune out. While it might be interesting to you to watch the minute-by-minute storm coverage on television, your kids probably don’t need it. They might not understand that what they are seeing on television is not happening right outside the window, and having the TV on can make them more anxious or afraid.
- Have a plan – and get the kids involved. Together, gather an emergency kit for severe weather, including a battery-powered or hand-crank flashlight, a weather radio, water and snacks, and other basics. Designate a certain area of the basement as a storm shelter and practice using it. Planning ahead and being involved can give kids a sense of control over the events.
- Give comfort. Obviously, a parent should try to comfort a frightened child. Stay close to him or her, hug them, and reassure them during the storm. We sat with our daughter and read a favorite book with her, which distracted her from the storms and reassured her. Other ideas are to do crafts, sing, dance, or anything else that might take your child’s mind off of the storms outside.
- Learn about storms. Take your child to the library to read age-appropriate books about clouds and storms. In addition, you can help your child to create his own story about storms. Have him draw the pictures, and help write the story.
Most importantly, if you are afraid of storms, don’t show it – kids quickly pick up on parents’ feelings, and if you are calm and reassuring, your child is more likely to relax.