Helping Kids Deal with Fear of Storms
We’ve had some pretty bad storms where I live. These can even include tornadoes. During one such outbreak, my oldest daughter (who was 10 at the time), had a very traumatic experience.
She and her dad were helping with our church’s Fireworks display when the weather started to turn. The men were closing the tent and tying things down when their phones all went off with the alert — tornado warning.
My daughter instantly started to panic. She was in tears and was telling her dad that she was afraid she would never see her mom again. He tried to get her into the Quicktrip next door, but she was too scared to go. He looked up and could tell that the direction towards our house was away from the storm, so the men there told him to leave with her. Turns out that the tornado was very far away from them, so no damage to the area where they were at — thankfully!
All the way home, my daughter kept telling herself “Calm down, Emma. It is going to be OK.” She came running through the door yelling my name and grabbed me and held on for dear life. She was terrified. She was shaking and was very pale. We got her calmed down and had all of the kids take a bath and headed to the basement as a family – to watch a funny movie and take everyone’s mind off of things.
We went back upstairs at 9 pm and put the kids to bed when it happened. The tornado sirens began to screech right outside our house. All 3 of my kids ran down the stairs as fast as they could…..all of them in tears. We got them into the basement and turned on the TV. There was no mention of a warning. It was at that moment that both of our phones alerted us and a few second later, we saw the warning pop up on the screen.
A tornado was in our area (thankfully it was a couple of miles southeast of us), but we later learned that there had been funnel clouds dropping all around our city for most of the evening (don’t tell my kids). At 9:15, when we had the all clear, we took them back up the stairs and told them it was time for bed. They were too scared and it ended up being a sleepover in mom and dad’s room.
This was our very first real experience with storms. We kept our kids calm and we got through it and best of all, there was no damage where we lived and no one was injured as a result of any of the storms.
Kids will be scared of these storms, but there are things we can do to help them get through it:
1. Talk about storms before they happen. In the moment of a storm, kids are often too scared to understand what is going on. They just want to be safe.
Talk about thunderstorms and lightning when it is not storming. Talk about tornados and what to do if we hear a siren. In fact, when you hear the test sirens in your area, have your kids practice what to do and where to go.
When they know what to do when it storms, they feel more in control and that can really help them to stay a bit more calm.
2. Don’t try to pretend it is not happening. Kids are smart. They know what the sirens mean. They can see dark clouds in the sky. If they ask if there is a tornado, do not lie to them. Just stay calm and say yes and ask them to come with you to your shelter.
3. Remind them why they are safe. When the storm strikes, remind your children that they are away from the lightning, wind and hail when they are in the house. If it is a very bad storm, take them to your basement (or shelter) and again, remind them how they stay safe where they are at.
4. Distract them. Keep the things you need handy in your shelter area. This would include flashlights, batteries, food, water, weather radio and even games. Play cards with your kids so they take their minds off of the storm. You can keep board games handy. If the power is still on, you might be able to pop in a fun movie into the DVD player.
5. Keep calm yourself. As an adult, we know the damage and what can actually happen as a result of these storms. Many of us have seen the destruction and fear it ourselves. However, in the moment when your child is scared, they can not see the fear in your face, as that will make them more frightened. Find a way to stay calm yourself and your child will feel better when they see that you are not worried.
Do you have anything to add to our list?