Thunderstorms: How to Stay Calm During the Storm (Giveaway)

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Now that the warmer weather is finally here, chances are there will be a few thunderstorms rolling our way. While some kids may enjoy the spectacle of the storms, for others it can be a very frightening experience.

Marcia Slattery, MD, UW Health child and adolescent psychiatrist, and Director of the UW Anxiety Disorders Program, explains that thunderstorms tap into nearly all of our sensory systems – sight, smell, sound, even touch. From the bright flash of lightning, loud clap of thunder, pounding rain, and gusts of wind, to the flashing lights and blaring sirens – it can be overwhelming for kids. What’s more, seeing your parents anxious and nervous about bad weather can evoke fear in many kids even more than fear of the storm itself, so it’s important to remain calm to help your child feel safe and protected.

With a little advance planning, there are ways to help kids manage their fear of storms. Dr. Slattery offers the following suggestions:

Create a Thunderstorm Plan

Think about how to deal with your child’s fears before the bad weather occurs.

  • Have a safety plan for real weather emergencies that everyone is familiar with.

    This may include identifying a specific safe place in the house to go to during storms, and having emergency supplies such as water, blankets, and flashlights there as well.

  •  Identify a comfortable and fun place in the house to go to during non-emergent storms that is relaxing and positive; finding a place away from windows, and the sights and sounds of the storm is often helpful.

    If it’s not a bedroom, consider bringing pillows, blankets and other items to make the space feel cozy. Quiet and relaxed time together with parents can help ease fears.

  • Help your child make a “storm fun kit” that you bring out only during storms.

    Include activities like markers, puzzles, battery-operated electronic games, and packaged snacks. Make sure to include flashlights for everyone in the box in case the power goes out; darkness can make everything seem scarier. Kids love to play with flashlights, and often, they will feel safer having one at hand.

  • Consider making a “storm game,” like getting “points” for each time there is thunder.

Some kids may also benefit from exposure to the weather. For example, start gradually by walking outside in a gentle rain. Playing in puddles can be fun and helps kids begin to associate a positive emotion with the experience of rain.

What You Can Do Before Storms Hit

Helping kids understand what storms are about can help them feel less scared and more in control when bad weather occurs. Older kids who are uncomfortable when storms hit may appreciate science books about what actually happens during a storm.

For younger kids, using developmentally appropriate books that explain storms and what to do to feel less afraid can help kids feel more in control because they’ll feel more prepared and have a better understanding of what is really going on.

Remember too that storm warnings and even the weather broadcasts can heighten the sense of anxiety. Anticipating and hearing about bad weather that might happen can often kick in more worry than the actual storm. If possible, limit kids’ exposure to the news broadcasts or weather radios if a storm is pending.

When All Else Doesn’t Work

A fear of storms can usually be managed by parents at home, but if your child seems fixated on the weather, such as checking forecasts frequently, or obsessively monitoring weather apps, you may need to restrict access to that information.

And for those children whose fears are not ultimately calmed by “home remedies,” talk with your child’s primary care physician as to whether a consultation with a child-anxiety specialist may be beneficial for your child.

Smiling SunTo enter this week’s giveaway: Leave a comment on this post telling us how you calm your kids fears about storms.
Prize: 1 – $10 Barnes & Noble Gift Card. No substitutions.
Rules: Giveaway closes on Saturday, June 22, 2013 at 11pm CST. Open to Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois residents only. One entry per email address is permitted. The winner will be selected using random.org and announced on the following Monday as an update to this post. Winner will be notified via email and asked to provide a mailing address to receive the prize; if the winner does not respond within 7 days, the winner forfeits the prize and another winner will be selected. Subscribe to the blog and you’ll get new posts delivered to your inbox as soon as they’re posted.

Posted in Parenting, Safety | Tagged , , , , , ,
Thunderstorms: How to Stay Calm During the Storm (Giveaway)
About Marcia J. Slattery, MD
Marcia Slattery, MD, is a UW Health child and adolescent psychiatrist, and Director of the UW Anxiety Disorders Program.
View all posts by Marcia J. Slattery, MD

Comments

  1. jessica says:

    We watch the storms together, or we will play games to distract. I keep a sleeping bag under my bed so if the kids get scarred during the night they can come and pull the sleeping bag out to sleep on the floor in our room.

  2. Diane says:

    I lived in FL for 30 years and know all about frightful lightning storms and tried not to pass my fears on to my daughters. We would set up a camp on an old bedspread inside the house and the girls would bring along their dolls and toys and we would read books and play games. We made a tent out of sheets to protect ourselves from the storm and had snacks in the comfort of our “hideaway”. For night storms, the camp out came into the master bedroom for a family camp out, safety in numbers!

  3. Lisa Johnson says:

    My son is only 7 months old, and doesn’t fear storms yet. We had a tornado watch last week, but he seemed ok with all the lightening and thunder.

  4. Jennifer says:

    My daughter always freaks out during a storm. The best thing is for me as the parent to stay calm about it. I have explained to her how unlikely anything really bad would happen where we live. Just staying calm helps her a lot.

  5. Erin Hahn says:

    First, I hope that by showing how much we enjoy storms our son will see that they aren’t something to be scared of but to marvel at. Second, we talk about the fact that what is happening is a part of nature and therefore really something beautiful.

  6. Wendy says:

    Our kids are not really scared of storms. They know it’s rain and that thunder comes after lightning. They have seen tornadoes and my oldest has done tornado drills at school, but she doesn’t seem to be afraid of storm/tornado warnings.

  7. Allie says:

    He is 4 months old and has been doing really well with storms so far. At this point we would just comfort him if he were afraid.

  8. Karen Block says:

    Timing of this article is perfect with the severe storms recently…my grandchildren were so scared during the last one. With flashlight in hand and a scared little face looking out the curtains at the wind and rain hitting the windows, we talked about other things and my own fears as a child. I told her to think about happy things to take her mind off of it and in about 10 minutes and her mom told her stories about what the thunder and lighting really is…you know the bowling and the strike story…by then she was feeling much better.

  9. Sarah says:

    My husband and I have always made storms a “dance party” for our son. This started as a way to distract our dog when she was a puppy and scared from the storms. When our son came along, this seemed to work for him too. We try to make everything an adventure, that keeps anxiety levels low.

  10. Tamara says:

    We camp out in the living room downstairs to sleep during storms. It calms everyone’s fears knowing we are together.

  11. Michelle says:

    Having a rain garden helps explain rain and storms!

  12. R. says:

    Luckily my kids are not scared of storms. If parents look nervous or scared so will kids. Talking about them and what to do ahead of time helps. give each kid a special job to do during storms, maybe one is in charge of flashlight and the other in charge of getting the game. They have also watched movies on the portable DVD player to distract.

  13. Emily says:

    I think remaining calm during a storm is very important and will help your children follow your actions. We have sat on our porch and watched a storm come in and our son really liked that.

  14. JaneRae says:

    My children have never feared storms. It may be because I enjoy the sound of rain, thunder and lightening that has kept them calm during them.

  15. Cathy says:

    We make sure to not portray any anxiety or nervousness. We point out the beauty and awesomeness of all the storm components that nature brings to our senses…the beauty of lightning, the sound of the rain, the wonder of hail.We also explore why/how the weather event occurs. And of course, board games!!!

  16. Bonni Brown says:

    We take a camping trip in the basement! we all take our sleeping bags and plan an adventure in the basement. We tell stories while holding flash lights eat popcorn and pretent that we are outside on a camping trip. The time goes by and we all forget about the storm.

  17. Kathy says:

    I guess I’m one of the lucky ones. My son sleeps through the loud thunder and isn’t scared of the storms.

  18. Molly says:

    I am lucky that my son is not scared of storms, but my daughter is 4 months old and hopefully will be the same way. My son acutally likes playing in the rain and puddles. The one thing that I will take out of this article that I never thought of was to have a box, or activities that we only take out for storms. My son also has already found the flash light and could play with that thing for hours on end. It was nice to these storms we just had last week or so we were able to practice our tornado plan we have in place!!! Thanks so much for the article!!

  19. Natalie E says:

    If you don’t freak out they won’t freak out. Stay calm and do normal things. Just another day.

  20. Heather S says:

    I stay calm myself and reassure them that they will be ok, then squeeze and kiss them :)

  21. Jennifer says:

    We read stories and then watch the movie about them

  22. katie says:

    We always discuss when a storm is coming what thunder and lightening is and why they occur. Then we grab special toys to cuddle with and hope for the best!

  23. SaraU says:

    We have a root cellar area of our basement that hubs had built just so we would feel safe in storms, and it works for the most part!

  24. Angel says:

    We don’t make a big deal about it, and that seems to work. We also recently went outside with the kids and watched a big storm roll in and go just north of us. We have a safe area downstairs that we use if there are severe thunderstorm or tornado warnings. We have some emergency supplies in our safe area but have recently thought of revamping the supplies (with the kids involved) and might add some games to it after reading this article!

  25. Stephanie F. says:

    We read our storm books and snuggle under our blankets. We re-assure them that it will pass soon. We also talk about our plan if a tornado is sighted nearby. If there will be lots of lightning and thunder, which tends to frighten them, we put their sleeping bags in the hallway outside our door and tell them they are welcome to sleep by us there if they get scared.

  26. Sarah says:

    Our 19 month old son loves watching storms. Our almost-5 year old daughter has a little bit of a fear of storms. She is usually fine with storms until it’s bedtime. She doesn’t like to sleep alone when it thunders. We have had a few relatives die somewhat recently and joke about the thunder being them getting strikes in heaven. We usually laugh about it and it gets her talking about great-grandma. Then we stay in her room with her a little longer than usual before she falls asleep.

  27. jay miller says:

    For my oldest, we make up stories of how thunder came to be and enjoy watching the storm.

  28. Nicole says:

    My husband loves to watch storms, so when my boys get to stay up and watch a storm with Daddy they think of it as a fun activity.

  29. Lexy says:

    We make our own indoor storm: stomp our feet on the floor and make lightning by flicking on and off the lights.

  30. Brenda says:

    We take blankets, pillows, books, games, and movies to the basement. Spending time together in a safe place makes us all feel better about the storms.

  31. Makayla champion says:

    Turn on a movie w stereo on loud and keep lights on. Drown out all the scary sounds and lights

  32. Jason Johnson says:

    CUDDLE..CUDDLE….and hot chocolate!!

  33. Michelle Allen says:

    When a bad storm comes my kids and I turn on relaxing music like Chrisitan music, light scented candles in case power goes out, I rub essential oils like lavender on their feet if they are afraid or spray it in the air for relaxation and then we buckle down in the lower level with treats to eat and play games.

  34. Charyl Uptegraw says:

    Our kids (8 & 5) just want to be by mom and dad during a storm. We always preplan when we know there will be a middle of the night storm, by putting blankets and pillows by our bedside. They know to just come on in and make themselves comfortable and go back to bed.

  35. Linda says:

    We were lucky our kids have never been afraid of storms. Like others have said, my husband and I stayed relaxed and we talk about them and address any concerns they may of had.

  36. Pattie says:

    We’ve passed on to our kids what our parents did when we were little. If it’s just a summer rain, we’d take clear plastic sheet and stand outside and watch the rain. If it were a particularly warm day we would dance in it.

    For the stronger storms flashlights and forts in the basement were a hit. We’d build comfy forts in the basement with blankets and pillows and everyone got their own flashlight. It was cozy and fun.

    We also taught our kids to count in-between the thunder so they could tell if the storm was coming or going.

  37. Andrea says:

    I liken it to a scary ride at Disneyland. Works like a charm!

  38. Carol says:

    Our children are all grown now, but I work with children in their homes. If/when a storm is approaching, I have the child pick a favorite stuffed animal or doll and have the child pretend their playmate is scared of the storm. As the child soothes and calms the playmate with soft reassurances or singing, the child himself is calmed. Works like a charm!! :)

  39. jessica valentine says:

    play games to stay occupied!

  40. Kristin Voss says:

    For our daughter who has autism & significant sensory issues – we use big headphones to help reduce some of the sound from the thunder. These also help give proprioceptive input which helps with sensory needs.