Fear of thunder: Helping your child cope during storms

Thunderstorms can be scary for young children. Here are some tips to help them deal with their fear. Photo: Axel Rouvin

Silver Spring, Md, April 13, 2013 – April showers bring May flowers, or at least that’s how the saying goes. April showers – as well as May showers, June showers, July, August, and September showers – can also bring lots of thunder and lightning.

While many adults love a good thunderstorm, they are scary for many children, especially toddlers and preschoolers.

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Listen to his fears

When your little one comes running to you, do not dimply dismiss his fears. Do not tell him to be a “big boy,” or tell him that he should not be afraid. Listen to what your child has to say. Ask him why he is scared of the thunder or the lightning. Tell him how you used to be afraid of thunderstorms when you were his age. Do not compare him to older siblings, and do not tell him he is being silly. Doing so will not help him face his fears, but may make him less willing to come to you for support.

Photo by nerrisa’s ring, via Flickr.

Find a safe space

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Find a place that he feels safe and comfortable during the storm. That may be in your arms, or in your bed if it is the middle of the night.

Maybe the basement is best because the storm is not as loud, or maybe building a fort out of the sofa cushions makes him feel more secure. Finding a safe space will help calm the fear and make riding out the storm easier.

Make a game out of the storm

Pretend you are the storm clouds, and clap every time there is thunder.  Have a pillow fight, hitting each other gently every time there is a grumble or rumble.

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Pretend lighting is a camera flash and draw a new picture every time you see the sky light up. Set up an indoor bowling lane, using things like empty toilet paper rolls as pins, and try to knock them down whenever there is thunder.

Finding creative ways to make a game out of the storm helps make it less scary by providing a fun distraction.

Sing songs

“The Itsy-Bitsy Spider,” “Rain, Rain Go Away,” “It’s Raining, It’s Pouring,” “It’s a Rainy Day.” There are many, many children’s songs that deal with rain, and if you are looking for some distraction, then singing songs can help soothe your child. Once they learn the lyrics, they can sing along, and maybe you will not be able to hear that scary thunder.

Happy thoughts

If you cannot play games, or if it is late and you want your little one to stay relaxed and fall back to sleep, try getting him to think happy thoughts. Tell him to think about his favorite toys, or think about playing with his friends. If you have a trip coming up, tell him to think about all the fun things you are going to do one the trip. Tell him that you will stay with him, but to close his eyes and imagine all those good things. Every time he gets upset by a new clap of thunder, gently ask him what his happy thoughts are.

Gradually increase storm exposure

Eventually your child will start to manage his fear better. To help him fully get over the fear, gradually suggest you watch the storm. Try this once he is comfortable in his safe spot and you can hear the storm moving off.

Photo by Jonathan Groẞ.

When the thunder is more of a low rumble than a house shaking bang and the lighting is the occasional flash rather than a night illuminating outdoor strobe light, try sitting near a window and talking about what is going on. Ask him what he thinks the thunder and the lighting are.

Over time, you can extend how long you watch the storms. Maybe you can even watch one coming in instead of leaving when he gets comfortable enough.

Children often develop fear of things they cannot control, and thunder and lightning can be loud and completely uncontrollable.  It is no wonder that a middle of the night boom can send a tiny child running to his parents’ bed looking to escape the storm. The fear will pass, but hopefully these tips will help you cope in the meantime.

Follow Brighid on Twitter a @BrighidMoret and receive updates when new columns post on Facebook or Google+. She also writes picture book reviews at Big Reads For Little Hands. Read more about first time parenting issues in Parenting the First Time Through at The Communities at The Washington Times.

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Brighid Moret

Brighid is a freelance writer and first time mother.  She holds an MA in Writing from Johns Hopkins University.  Find her on Facebook @Brighid Moret


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