The changing seasons and warmer weather can create the perfect climate for severe weather and storms. For children, and even some adults who might have a fear of storms, it can be a struggle to cope during the season.
“Storms can be scary,” said Dr. Patrick Terry, a Family Medicine Physician at ThedaCare Physicians–Oshkosh. “It’s normal for children to be afraid of storms. The unpredictability can be especially unsettling for some. It’s important to take steps to address your child’s concerns if their fears or anxiety from storms begin to disrupt their daily life and typical routines.”
While children of all ages may experience storm anxiety, it can be present at different times depending on their age. It can be helpful to first find out if your child has storm anxiety. If your child is experiencing nightmares during storms or complains of stress-related ailments they may have weather-related anxiety.
“For some children with a significant fear of storms, it’s not so much the storm itself, but the anticipation of a storm,” explained Dr. Terry. “That anticipation can result in ongoing stress and anxiety.”
Some of those stress-related ailments to watch might include:
- Stomach aches
- Overly clingy
- Trouble sleeping
Dr. Terry explained that many children’s fear of storms can start to lessen as they age, but for some children, it may still be a concern. There are several ways to help your children overcome their fears of storms.
Experts provide the following recommendations to help your children overcome their fears of storms, including:
- Give Your Child the Opportunity to Ask Questions. Helping your child have a better understanding of storms can help children sort through their emotions. Give your child some time and space to think about and express their concerns.
- Talk with Your Child About Their Fears. If your child expresses fear, then reassure your child that you understand storms can be scary. Also, let them know that you’re there to keep them safe. Listening to their concerns can go a long way in helping children feel comforted. As you work through ways to help them handle their fear, remember to be supportive and encouraging. Never punish or belittle a child for being afraid.
- Model Calm Behavior. Children pick up and mimic parents’ behavior, so if storms stress you, your children may learn to respond the same way. Try to model a calm approach. Take deep breaths and monitor your thoughts to help yourself cope and plan ahead to increase your sense of control.
- Be Honest About the Possibility of Danger During Storms. Overlooking your child’s fears and not validating their concerns can create more fear and anxiety. Let children know that you’re there to help and keep them safe.
- Create a Family Storm Plan. A storm safety plan helps reduce anxiety before, during and after a storm. Create a storm plan so everyone knows where to go in case of severe weather. Typically, everyone should go to the lowest level or basement, away from doors and windows. It’s also ideal to have an emergency kit with you with items such as a flashlight, batteries, weather radio, candles, matches, food, water, pet supplies and other essentials.
- Offer Distractions. Another idea is to keep a couple of board games, cards, or children’s toys near the storm meeting spot to pass the time and remain calm. Parents can make things fun with board games, puzzles, play-doh, or card games to pass the time.
Dr. Terry added that it’s important to seek professional help if your child continues to struggle or their fears of storms do not subside.
“As a family medicine physician or pediatrician, we’re always here to have those conversations with families,” said Dr. Terry. “Once we understand what a child might be experiencing, we can work with the family to talk through options and determine the best plan to help. We want families to feel comfortable, empowering their children to overcome their fear of storms.”
For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health of the communities it serves in northeast and central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 600,000 residents in 17 counties and employs approximately 7,000 health care professionals. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including seven hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their best lives through easy access to individualized care, supporting each person’s own health and wellbeing. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand unique needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care.
For more information, visit thedacare.org or follow ThedaCare on social media. Members of the media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public and Media Relations Consultant at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.