Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Weathering the Storm

(This article appears as a part of my Practical Parenting in The Daily ReviewAtlas)

Watch out when the lightening strikes and the thunder rolls. Summer storms are scary times for young children and, as with most things parenting, how you deal with these stressful moments can either help or hinder situations.   

With a crack reverberating through my darkened bedroom I braced myself for the anticipated pounding of little feet. The twins would be running in in no time. At least, I comforted my exhausted self, I would be awake as opposed to the last storm when they bounced in my bed scaring me half to death. I was the one that night who almost wet the bed.

I, along with every other mother, mentally shakes her fist to the heavens when Mother Nature unleashes a whopper of a storm. The anxiety level  instantly raises 10 notches in our home with the first drop of rain. Great, I shamelessly think, dreading spending the next hours comforting my frightened child.

Oh don't give me that look. Believe me when I say it can be quite exhausting soothing and comforting a child through a storm. 

There are, however, a few important tactics to keep in mind to get everyone through the tempest. First, and most importantly, a parent should never make fun of a child who is afraid. Even if all common sense tells you there is nothing to really be afraid of belitting a child is the last way to convince them of their safety. Calling a child chicken or scaredy pants - yes, some teasing parents or siblings will do this - does not in any way help a child to feel less anxious. It simply makes them feel embarassed and anxious.

A parent or caregiver with a frightened child should offer comfort. Gather the child in your arms, use soothing words if you must but never, under any circumstances laugh at or ridicule an afraid child. A frightened child can only learn to work through the fear when they feel secure.

How can you make a child feel safe and secure? Offer reassurance that they are safe. Let them know that you will do everything you can to protect them and that you will never leave them in an unsafe situation. 

You cannot, however, convince a child that they are safe. Trust me I've tried. I've shown them the rain. I've tried to make the kids sit on the porch to witness a gentle sprinkle. I've even read books about what happens in a storm. All of my efforts help educate the kids about storms but none of my actions actually convinced them they were safe. 

That was a conclusion they had to make on their own. They had jump in my arms and bury their head in my shoulder. And I had to let them. They needed comforting in the middle of the night and I gave it. They desired my understanding and sympathy so I offered it. Then most unexpectedly on a random stormy day my little brown eyed girl looked up at me and said, "It's not so bad mom! It's just noise isn't it?"

"Yes my darling" I said stroking her hair, "you're right!" That's when I understood that only when my daughter felt safe, both physically and emotionally, could she learn storms don't have to be scary, she can trust me and she can have faith for her safety. Storms are a loud scary experience. But with a little love and understanding even the most frightful child can learn to weather the storm. Why? Because I'm the mom and I said so! That's why!

Stephanie is a parent to five children, including twins. She is a Parent Educator for the Monmouth-Roseville School District and can be reached for comment or consultation at

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