I love thunderstorms. Wild, dark, rainy storms with loud cracks of thunder and bright flashes of lightening. I love thunderstorms like I love Disney villains. Clearly, I have a dark side. Unfortunately, my daughter hates thunderstorms almost as much our dogs. At least she doesn’t frantically bark at them, I suppose. But while I’m in my happy place when it storms, I have had to find ways to calm my child and get her to hers. Check out these ways to calm your storm-frightened child.
Learn About the Weather: Some of a child’s anxiousness about storms could be that they have no idea what’s going on. I mean, seriously, is the sky falling or what?! I’ve tried being silly with my daughter and telling her how when I was growing up, we pretended that thunder was angels bowling, but she wanted none of that foolishness. She loves learning, though, so getting some age-appropriate books (check out your local library, where the Youth Services folks would be delighted to help you) to learn about the science behind different types of weather can help alleviate some of the fear of the unknown.
Make a Safety Plan: Talk about how your family will stay safe in a storm, even if you’re not home or if you’re outside when the storm hits. You can find safety tips to get you started here, here, here, and here. Like knowing what causes storms, knowing what to do if a severe storm hits can help calm “what if” fears. And doing things like preparing an emergency kit can help kids feel like they have a little more control over the situation. (Plus, you can make it fun by doing things like letting the kids choose and/or decorate the box and pick out supplies that are fun while still being useful.)
There’s an App for That: I’m serious. One of my kid’s favorite apps—and she’s loved it for a couple years now—is Marco Polo Weather. This app lets users create and change the weather for a cast of characters. It also provides seasonally appropriate accessories so the user can enjoy (or at least get through) the weather conditions. There’s a narrator that explains the weather phenomena the user creates. Here’s a list of six more kid-friendly weather apps to check out.
Acknowledge Their Fear: I’m sure you’ve heard this advice before, but as a reminder: don’t blow off kids’ emotions. Acknowledge and validate how they’re feeling, rather than dismissing them. Children need to know that we hear them and we take them seriously.
Help Them Be Mindful: Practicing mindfulness—including mindfulness through yoga—can be helpful when it comes to dealing with all kinds of emotion. My daughter had a couple of yoga sessions in preschool two years ago, and we can still calm small fears and anxieties and head off tantrums by reminding her to find her secret garden or doing finger movements while reciting “peace begins with me,” as they were taught in the sessions. You don’t need to be a full-on yoga guru to Google mindfulness and yoga videos for kids and start doing them with your child so your family has something to fall back on when someone’s stressed or upset.
Ask Them What They Need: Take some time to ask your child what would help them feel more comfortable/less afraid/etc. during a storm. Maybe they need some extra snuggle time. Maybe they’d like to be sure all the windows are closed to try to lessen the noise of rain and thunder, or would like the lights left on to soften the flashes of lightening. Maybe they’d like some music to help give them something else to focus on. Oh, and it’s probably most helpful to have this conversation with your child when it’s not stormy, so you can have any supplies on hand (noise-cancelling headphones or earmuffs, for example) when it’s storming. You’re also likely to have a better discussion when your child isn’t anxious or afraid!
What tips have you used to help calm your storm-frightened children? Share your wisdom in the comments!