Parenting: Weather Anxiety

October 13, 2011

The girl is so afraid of storms that she refuses to go outside when there are even a few clouds in the sky. I called the viewer and offered to talk to her daughter, explaining that not all clouds result in storms, but her daughter was too shy to come to the phone. Upon talking to the mom and doing a little research, I was surprised to discover that severe weather anxiety is a common phobia. Many people have a rational fear of certain types of severe weather that can be life-threatening, like tornados, hurricanes and even ice storms. While being somewhat afraid of severe weather is considered to be a normalcy, it is considered a phobia when you are too afraid to even live your house to go to work when you know that a storm could be on its way tomorrow or even a week from tomorrow.

It is understandable that a seven year old could develop this phobia after the past few months in our region, that featured flooding, hurricanes and severe thunderstorms. On the night Hurricane Irene rolled up the east coast and triggered a multitude of tornado warnings, many families slept in their basements. This can have a lasting effect on children. Experts suggest, in the interest of preventing unnecessary anxiety over storms, parents should take their children out into a gentle rain (during a non-electrical storm). This can start when the child is an infant.

According to the Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics Newsletter, Autumn 2005, "The parents can stand under the cover of their garage, carport or front entryway, holding the infant. They extend their hand out into the rain and return it so that the infant can feel the wet rain. After doing this several times, they can encourage their infant to extend her hand out into the rain. Similarly, the parent can walk out into the rain with an umbrella, with an infant or a toddler, in order to give the child an opportunity to appreciate the cleanliness of the rain as well as the smell of the fresh air. Over the generations, many families have passed on dialogues that can be calming to their children as well, including such comments as, "the rain is God's way of cleaning the grass and the ground." In this way, the parents are offering reassurance to their child in both action and word."

Being prepared for severe weather, while keeping panic at bay, can show your children to respect Mother Nature, but have an irrational fear. The parent who has an area set up in the basement in which there is a radio, flashlights, and a small table for homework, is getting the message that you have to prepare for storms but you also have to get your homework done, keeping a sense of normalcy during severe weather events.

Happy Parenting! Cecily

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