Terribly violent storms, like the one witnessed in Oklahoma this week, can leave lasting damages much more permanent than a shredded earth. This is especially so for children. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health problem in kids and adults. Mayo Clinic Children’s Center anxiety prevention expert and psychologist Stephen Whiteside, Ph.D., offers tips to help conquer weather-related fears.
Whiteside says that worries about weather can make it hard for kids to concentrate in school. Some will routinely check forecasts or develop fears of leaving the house. He says it’s important that parents do not tell anxious children they are being silly or otherwise dismiss their fears.
Dr. Whiteside’s Suggested Tips for Talking to Kids About Weather-Related Anxiety:
- Be calm and supportive. Tell children that thunder won’t hurt them. Explain that storms are a normal part of nature.
- Talk about storms matter-of-factly. Some kids may seem afraid of storms but are really interested in learning more about them.
- The same type of exposure-based behavioral therapy used to defeat many worries and phobias works well with weather-related phobias. It boils down to helping children face their fears by gradually helping them learn that they can handle a fear, and other uncertainties of life, on their own.
- Help children face their fear of storms by reading about them or by watching videos of tornadoes, hurricanes and other big storms.
- If the anxiety doesn’t diminish, or begins to create greater stress for the child or the parent, get the assistance of a mental health professional.