Calming the Storm Fears of your Child

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Does your child have a weather-related phobia?????

The thunder rumbles and lightning strikes and that can mean sleepless nights for anxious children and the adults that care for them.

Most adults can handle a stormy night or two with a frightened child by their bed, but when fear turns to phobia a child cannot sometimes be consoled. Doctors can help children ride out the storm. Some children even may have to see a psychiatrist and psychotherapist when these fears become overwhelming.

Some children can’t sleep and they shake and have breathing problems at the first sign of a storm. Some children refuse to eat for days if they know a storm is on its way. Some children refuse to play outside in case a storm does start to show signs. Some children are just afraid of wind and are constantly check the television and watch the weather channel. Sometimes, a child starts having these fears later in childhood and they keep getting worse.

On advice from doctors some parents just try to distract the child during the storm but many parents say counseling is the best way to go when the fears are too strong.

The first thing a counselor will do is to check into the medical and family history to make sure the child isn’t troubled by other issues. The last step would be medication. Counseling teaches parents how to comfort the child without overdoing the comforting. This overdoing can make the child feel rewarded for the behavior and this encourages the behavior.

Daytime storms can be addressed with discussion, distraction and reassurance. Discuss what is really happening outside. Talk about how much the rain is needed for things to grow and people to drink. Showing a movie or playing a game could be fun and distracting.

It is not encouraged to say the thunder is “Angels bowling”. Rather, say what is really happening. Many parents take a frightened child into their bed at night if it is stormy out. If the child has not reached the phobia stage (extreme) parents are instead encouraged to have their child stay in their own bed with you at their side for a few minutes. Not an easy thing to do at 3 in the morning but good parenting is never easy.

Counselors work to desensitize a child’s fear by using exposure therapy. They may begin by looking at pictures of clouds, rain and weather and then walk outside on a cloudy day together and then a rainy one. Gradual exposure helps children work through their emotions instead of running away.

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