I don’t remember being afraid of thunderstorms as a child. My dad would sit in the garage with me and explain what was happening. That seemed to help me. But I do know that many children are afraid of storms. After a little research, I found out some of the reasons why some kids are so scared of thunderstorms.
- Volume and frequency – Many people love the sounds produced by a thunderstorm, but for children it can be a bit overwhelming. The intense sounds created in a thunderstorm often rattle the windows and pictures on your walls. To calm your kids, teach them how to estimate the lightning’s distance. Count the seconds between the lightning and time the thunder is heard. Sound travels about one mile in five seconds. It is a great way to occupy their minds and teach them a little about science in the process.
- Reactions of others – If an adult portrays fear and lack of confidence in front of a child, they may believe there is a reason to fear the storm. They pick up on our emotions and make them their own. Even if you are not comfortable with storms, make sure you let your kids know it is no big deal.
- Myths – Often children are told fictional tales about storms in hopes that their fears will be calmed. Unfortunately, these frequently backfire, causing more fear than before. A number of adults have reported that they were told that the sound of thunder was actually God bowling in heaven. A few mentioned that they feared the bowling ball would fall through the clouds and kill them. Children don’t always have the ability to distinguish truth from fantasy.
- Bad experiences – If your child has already had a frightening experience during a thunderstorm, the next storm may not be easier. Discuss what will happen and where you will go in your home to be safe. Try to make the time as fun as possible. Go to your safe basement location. Pull out the games and snacks. When it’s over, celebrate your child’s bravery. Hopefully it will make the next storm a little less scary.
- Connecting the storms – When children begin to associate thunderstorms, lightening and tornados together, fear isn’t far behind. Help them understand that not every thunderstorm produces a tornado, hail or strong winds.
- Sirens – While these are used to help protect us, they can cause overwhelming feelings of fear in children. Make sure you discuss the importance of the sirens on a day when they are being tested. Make a plan with your child for when the sirens go off if your child is at home, at a friend’s house or even at school. Having a plan can give children a sense of control in a frightening situation.
- The Unknown – Storms don’t follow exact patterns. It would be easier if you could go through a checklist to know when the end was in sight. The unknown in any situation can often be the most frightening. However, all storms do eventually come to an end, an assurance you can always give.