It’s thunderstorm time – and what does that often mean in your family? Many of the families I talk with have told me thunderstorms mean the dog is UNDER their bed and the kids are IN their bed!
It’s not unusual for children to want to be with caring adults when a storm is raging outside. Welcoming them and being cozy together during the crashes and booms cannot only be comforting but enlightening. Counting the seconds between a flash of lightening and the roar of thunder to follow will calculate just how far away the storm is, while diverting a child’s mind from fear to eagerly anticipating the next bang! (even if their ears are covered). Sharing with your kids your own experiences during storms as a child, is always meaningful and engaging. “You mean you were afraid of thunder when you were my age? Did your mom let you sleep with her?”
What if you’re still afraid of storms? Maybe you had a parent that was afraid, or one that thought it important that you stick it out hidden, shaking under the covers of your own bed and you never quite resolved your fear. Well, now that you’re the parent, this is your chance. Faking it is the way. Modeling calm for your child is the most important way to help your child relax, and, actually, you too. It’s always amazing to me how children help us take our biggest steps.
I think, often as parents, our first reaction when our child shows fearfulness is to deny that there is anything to be afraid of . Acknowledging your child’s concern, “Wow, thunder is really really loud – sounds kind of scary, I know!” is a positive way to accept what your child is feeling and convey to him that you “get” what he’s upset about. Once children feel understood, rather than having their fears dismissed, they will be much more receptive to hearing and experiencing what is actually going on.
Some parents prepare for nightime visitors ahead of time when severe storms are predicted and have sleeping bags and pillows already on the floor waiting for the scurry of children to jump in, between the first loud rumble and the next flash of lightening.
If going to the basement becomes necessary because of severe warnings, think ahead. I know our daughter, probably aged 4 at the time, still remembers our time in the basement during a particularly violent storm. We had jelly beans and sang all the songs we could think of, wrapped up in cozy blankets, while the storm raged. Having a few puzzles and books along with flashlights and snacks in a bin in the basement will help you feel prepared and ready to assure your child that all is under control.
Going to the library and checking out books on storms is a great way to meet fear with knowledge and understanding, especially with school-aged kids. One of my favorite picture books, suitable for all ages, is Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacci. At the end of the story is a recipe for baking a thunder cake which can be a fun activity to do together.
When daytime storms approach, safely watching the storm clouds roll in and the wind increase can be an exciting adventure and can become a special memory. Thunderstorms are a beautiful display of nature. However, being respectful and understanding of the dangers of lightening and the precautions to take is first and foremost. With caution in mind, the opportunity exists to share and appreciate, with your whole family, the awesomeness and wonder of nature.