By Paula Bowlby, Early Childhood Associate Pastor
Woodland Hills Church
When I was young, I lived in a little neighborhood in the country. We had neighbors but were basically out in the middle of nowhere in Southern Minnesota. I remember many summer evenings as we watched the storms roll in, listening for the weather radio to go off, and I remember feeling scared. Sleeping on the floor in my parent’s room was something I distinctly remember. I had an active imagination as a child, and fear naturally came with it.
This time of year, children can often be scared of the weather and storms. I think as a child, I had an advantage over kids today in the fear department – no Internet and no cable TV. In this day and age, kids of all ages see and hear frightening weather announcements while parents are trying to figure out if they should head to the basement. This got me thinking: What can we do to help our children with the natural and normal fear of thunderstorms? I have a few ideas I hope will help.
1. Discuss the thunderstorm – If you have a younger child, Purdue University suggests the books “Thunder Cake,” by Patricia Polacco or “Rumble, Tumble Boom!” by Anna Grossnickle Hines. If you have older children, you can discuss the science of a thunderstorm in simple terms. For example, lightening is hot and it cuts through the air. When the lightening cuts through the air, the heat causes the thunder.
2. Discuss safety measures such as staying inside and away from windows and talk through where to go in your home if the sirens go off.
3. Find beauty in the storm – Look at the clouds and see how they are moving. Watch the lightening and point out how fast it goes. Because lightening moves faster than the sound of thunder travels, you can figure out how far away the lightening is by counting. Every 5 seconds you count equals roughly a mile away. Notice how bright the lightening is and enjoy the beauty. You could also have your child rate the thunder and lightning by how bright it is or how far the lightening shoots across the sky. Ask them to listen to the thunder – Is it loud, does it make the house shake, does it sound far away?
4. Pray together. Remind children the Bible says God is right there with them. Some helpful Scriptures you can look up are Isaiah 41:10, Philippians 4:6-7, and Psalms 56:3.
5. If your child has trouble sleeping during storms, it might be helpful to have a sound machine, music, or a fan going to help drown out some of the storm noise.
6. Snuggle in with a book or a movie and have an impromptu family nigh, enjoying quality time together. It’s a good idea to have candles and matches on hand in case the electricity goes out so you’re not scrambling in the dark while your child is scared. You may also want to have a game on hand you can play by candlelight to help distract your child and pass the time together.
Fear of storms is a natural fear. We parents can help our kids through this and even help ourselves if we have had a triggering experience. Talk about the fears, lean on God, and enjoy the extra snuggle time.