Our earth is a wonderful thing, full of changing seasons, and changing weather. But, as weather changes occur, severe weather also occur. With the level of climate variability in our world today, we are experiencing increased severe weather events year round. Rain, thunderstorms, blizzards, and tornadoes develop more frequently and more intensely. Many children are understandably scared and apprehensive about weather events, particularly if their community has suffered a tornado, hurricane, or natural disaster in recent years. Weather anxiety is commonplace among children, and it can also be helped.
There are some things that parents can do to help children with weather anxiety
Be calm. Model calm.
Offer your children reassurance, but don’t overdo it. They will watch you to see how to respond. Keep your own storm anxiety in check, and it will help your child.
Teach your children about storms ahead of time
The more they know, the less afraid they will be. Visit child-related websites on weather, or watch videos of tornadoes, hurricanes and other big storms, and learn about weather facts. Even some museums have lightning and thunder exhibits. Make it interesting and enjoyable. Even reading rhymes about rain, like those from Dr. Seuss, can increase a sense of whimsy and humor.
Have some fun with weather
On days when there is no thunder or lightning (and just rain), take your child out in her raincoat, umbrella and galoshes, and enjoy the weather. Splash around in the puddles, and enjoy.
Find some beauty with weather
Teach your child the enjoyable parts of storms: counting to see how far away the lighting is, watching the clouds swirl, a cozy blanket by a safe window. You can take the time to notice the color of the grass in the rain, the sound of the rain on the roof, or the beauty of the raindrops on the windowpanes.
Have a weather safety plan
Explain it to your children. Parents can role-play storms, along with fun activities, such as as banging on pots and pans, playing music, and having fun in your family’s safe room. Special toys and supplies can be kept there just for storms as a fun ritual. Demonstrate how you know just what to do to keep your child safe, and make it fun.
Simulate the Storms
Parents can purchase audio clips of thunderstorms, or find them online. Parents can play these audio clips of thunder storms when they are engaging in fun, relaxing family activities, such as games, etc. You may want to play these clips regularly during storm seasons or anytime. Let your child pick her favorites.
Practice Relaxation regularly
Practice deep breathing and other stress reduction techniques when storms are not present. This will help your child be more familiar with these skills when the storms are significant. Practice the deep breathing when listening to audio clips of thunderstorms whenever you remember.
Teach your child coping thoughts that she can use in these situations, such as:
“I am safe.”
“Mom and Dad know what to do.”
“Natural disasters are rare.”
“I am ok.”
“I know how to get back to sleep.”
“It’s cozy inside when it is rainy outside.”
Try not to give in to the anxiety
If the storms happen at night, and your child wants to sleep with you, calmly take them back to their room. Remind her of her deep breathing and coping thoughts so they can get back to sleep. Keep up with working on independence.
Try not to miss activities due fear of the weather unless it is a storm warning
Keep to routines as much as possible, even if your child is a little scared. The more practice they get with this skill, the better it will be.
Weather anxiety may take some time to resolve. You may want to practice and review deep breathing, and coping thoughts daily. However, with some tools and coaching from parents, many children will do better and learn to enjoy and respect the beauty of nature (thunder and all).
Author: Cindy AndersonDr. Anderson is a Board Certified Clinical Child Psychologist. She also owns Hope Springs Behavioral Consultants. Dr. Anderson has achieved a high degree of specialization in working with children and families. She holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and completed APA Accredited internship and postdoctoral training in Clinical Child and Pediatric Psychology. She prides herself as a life-long student and tries to learn something new every day.
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