Calming Children’s Fears During Storms

This summer, we’ve had some rather unusual and threatening weather in Michigan. In addition to long stretches of extremely hot temperatures, severe storms have knocked down trees and power lines, causing widespread power outages. Massive property damage has resulted from the hail and high winds. Some of the storms rolled in without much warning and setting off tornado sirens in many communities. This type of weather can be frightening to adults, so imagine the impact it has on children. The loud thunder, lightning flashes, strong winds, and power outages can be a scary experience for kids. We also see fear in our pets during storms.

There is actually some real benefit to our innate, uneasy response when storms strike, because we are aware that a dangerous situation exists. There are nature’s dangers, such as falling trees and lightning strikes, and then there are man-made dangers resulting from electrical wires and electronic items in our homes. Nowadays, we get a lot of our news and information via the Internet and mobile phones. But too much dependence on technology can wipe out your communication during a power outage, unless you have battery backup. Or you have “vintage” transistor radios and corded phones stashed away for emergencies.

Although there are only a few weeks of summer left, we can expect to have more severe weather. Now is the time to talk to your children about what to do during major storms. First, explain that fear is a completely natural reaction when the dark clouds roll in and the thunder booms. Stress the importance of taking precautions when there is storm danger. Tell kids to seek shelter immediately if they are outside playing when a storm hits, and teenage drivers should know to pull over to the shoulder of the road — away from trees — until the storm passes. At home, the entire family can get involved in unplugging appliances and computers, shutting off video games and electrical equipment, and avoiding the shower or bath because metal plumbing fixtures can conduct electricity during a lightning strike. During non-storm days, encourage your kids to watch educational television programs that explain how storms form and the functions of lightning and thunder. The more information kids have, the less fearful they will become.

For those children who are exactly the opposite and are fascinated by storms, they still need to learn to practice the same precautions. However, you can support their intense interest in weather patterns and storms by helping them seek out volunteer opportunities to assist with storm watching and notification in your community. And who knows? They may be headed toward careers as meteorologists, storm chasers, scientists, biologists or oceanographers.