Parents often come to me and ask for help in calming their children’s fear of storms. This seems to happen quite a bit with children between the ages of five and 12. At this age, kids can develop an awareness that storms are dangerous and thus fear follows. Understand that if your child is experiencing this fear, you’re not alone and it’s fairly typical. Fortunately, as children get older, most grow out of it. Here are some suggestions on how to help your child calm his or her fear of storms:
1. As a parent, you must remain calm during storms. Whether you have a fear or not, you need to be calm so that your children have a good role model of how to act.
2. Have a plan. Explain to your children that your family is prepared for no matter what nature throws your way. Make sure everyone in your family knows your severe weather safety plan and when warnings are issued, go calmly to your safe place and wait out the storm. Feeling prepared and in control can go a long way in helping your child move past his/her fear.
3. As the lightning is flashing and the thunder is crashing, talk about storms that you went through as a kid as if it’s a very normal experience. Allow them to talk through their fears. Share with them how you’ve been through hundreds of storms in your life and you’ve never had anything bad happen to you and you’ve never been hurt (if this is true – which it is for the VAST majority of readers). You can even go so far as to say something along the lines of, “You know Grandpa is 70 years old and he’s never been hurt in a storm either – and he’s seen LOTS of them.”
4. Demystify storms by going and finding an age-appropriate book in the library which explains how thunderstorms form. Fear of the unknown is likely a big part of what is making your child scared. If you help them understand how they work, it takes a bit of the mystery (and spookiness) out of them. Go to Amazon.com and do a search for “Children’s books about thunderstorms,” and you’ll get lots of suggestions.
5. Talk about storms as if they are a fascinating part of nature (which they are). Share what amazes you about storms and encourage them to see the amazing display before them. To this day, I’m still mesmerized by lightning and by watching a towering cumulonimbus cloud build miles into the sky.
6. If a storm is long-lasting, after some time, have something that can distract your child’s attention from what’s going on outside by having a book to read or a video to watch. This can also help the time pass by more quickly.
These steps can help your children through their fears. I’d love to hear some suggestions of what you’ve done as well…