When a storm strikes or fire destroys a home, children may have fears and anxieties that last well past the time it takes to repair the home or replace possessions. Children often develop fear and anxiety of alarms, storm clouds and even the sight of an oncoming storm.
If your child has developed a fear of storms, there are things you can do to help them process their emotions. Here are some tips to help you deal with childhood anxiety about storms.
Going Through a Severe Storm with a Child
How you handle severe weather as it is happening can have a big impact on your child’s future anxiety and fear of the situation. As the storm passes through, follow these steps to help your child have a calm experience:
As adults, we know that tornadoes can be a devastating natural disaster for communities and families. However, they are rare in most locations, and damage and injury can often be minimized by preparing properly.
If your child is afraid of tornadoes, it can be helpful to walk them through the specifics of this type of storm. Teach them about how tornadoes form and how you, as the parent, are preparing to protect them and your home. This reassures them that you are there to take care of them and can go a long way.
Never belittle the fear; always recognize the fear is real. For example, a fear of storm clouds may seem trivial to you, but it’s very real to a child. Encouraging children to talk about their fears can help minimize them.
Easing Your Child’s Fear of Wildfires
Wildfires are a destructive natural disaster that can cause anxiety for children. If your child is afraid of a house or wildfire, tell them about the safety precautions you have in place, just in case a fire occurs.
How to Help Children Cope After a Natural Disaster
Pay Attention to Their Age
Kids ages 7 through 12 often have fears that reflect real circumstances that may happen to them, such as severe storms. At this age, it’s important to listen to their fears and be honest with them about the situations of which they are afraid. Be honest with them about natural disasters, but limit their exposure to dramatic news coverage or movies, as this can increase their fear and anxiety.
For more information about how to help children at any age cope with fears about storms, check out the Ready.gov website. You’ll learn the best ways to help your child cope with their fears and anxieties.
Phobia of Storms
Some children may develop a phobia of storms after experiencing a scary situation. Seek professional help from a doctor or counselor if, after some time, your child still is very anxious, has trouble sleeping or shows other signs of stress.
What to Do If Your Child Is Afraid of Thunderstorms
In addition to the tips above, if your child is dealing with a fear of thunderstorms, one of the best things you can do is teach your child about them. Try reading children’s books about fear and thunderstorms to show them they’re not the only ones who fear storms and that you don’t have to be afraid.
If the storm is calm enough, your child may be open to watching the storm and learning more about it. This is the perfect opportunity to share some fun facts about thunderstorms!
Thunderstorm Facts for Kids
What Causes a Thunderstorm?
Thunderstorms typically occur in the spring and summer months and during the afternoon and evening hours, although they can occur anytime if the conditions are right. Thunderstorms form when there is moisture, unstable air and something forcing the air to rise.
Thunderstorm Fun Facts
If you know a child who fears thunderstorms, share these fun facts that let them know that thunderstorms aren’t something to be feared; they’re actually an interesting weather phenomenon!
Dealing with Bullies
Going back to school means facing many challenges both academically and oftentimes socially. Unfortunately, for many kids, a big part of these social challenges is bullying. In fact, according to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP):
“Surveys indicate that as many as half of all children are bullied at some time during their school years, and at least 10% are bullied on a regular basis.”
Bullying can have devastating consequences, including depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and thoughts of suicide.
Here are some warning signs that your child might be a victim of bullying:
– Withdraws socially
– Feels isolated and sad
– Exhibits mood swings
– Threatens violence
– Doesn’t want to go to school
– Unexplained bruising
– A drop in grades; learning problems
– Changes in social life
How to Help Your Child
The AACAP recommends:
• Ask your child what he/she has already done and whether that’s worked.
• Tell your child to walk away from a bully and seek help from the school’s staff.
• Teach your child to be assertive.
• Encourage your child to be with friends, because it’s less likely he/she will be picked on in a group.
• If you notice that your child is having trouble academically or has withdrawn, seek a mental health professional early on.
How to Approach School Staff
The U. S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests:
• Record details about bullying incidents along with meetings with school personnel. Ask your school to also keep records of any incidents against your child.
• Talk with your child’s teacher about the following: what the teacher has observed; what he/she will do to investigate the bullying and stop it; ask if your child seems isolated.
• Always follow-up with school staff and see the principal if there’s no improvement. If that doesn’t work, keep going up the hierarchy to the superintendent.
• Put complaints in writing.
• Be persistent.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines cyberbullying, or electronic aggression, as:
“any kind of aggression perpetrated through technology—any type of harassment or bullying (teasing, telling lies, making fun of someone, making rude or mean comments, spreading rumors, or making threatening or aggressive comments) that occurs through email, a chat room, instant messaging, a website (including blogs), or text messaging.”
Though traditional forms of bullying are still more common, cyberbullying is becoming an increasing concern. In fact, researchers have found that, like traditional bullying, cyberbullying is linked to depression, decreased grades, peer violence and suicide. But, unlike classic bullying, cyberbullying can seem more intense, because it occurs at home, it’s far reaching, often anonymous and might be harsher. An article in the New Scientist provides more detail into this phenomenon and its devastating effects.
Every summer, about two weeks before the beginning of school, my phone lights up at an alarming rate. With staggered start dates around the country, the concerns about back-to-school anxiety come in waves and continue through most of the fall. Good news: you’re not alone.
Take a second grade boy, for example. He loved kindergarten. He liked first grade. Just weeks before the first day of second grade, he declared that he had no intention of going to school anymore. At first, his parents thought it was cute and funny. Most kids would choose endless summer over homework and sitting still all day, after all. Within days of this declaration, however, his behavior changed.
He woke up with nightmares almost every night. His appetite decreased. He stopped doing the fun things he normally enjoyed, like running through the sprinkler with his sister and practicing soccer kicks in the yard. He became clingy, he whined a lot and he was irritable more often than not. He was anxious.
Feelings of anxiety are perfectly normal and to be expected during times of transition. While many people think of separation anxiety as a problem confined to toddlers and preschoolers, I also see it in elementary and middle school kids. And back-to-school anxiety can occur clear through high school!
Some kids are more hard-wired for anxious thoughts and feelings than others. While some level of anxiety affects most people, high levels of anxiety can be disruptive to both the child and the whole family.
Know the Signs
Some worries are to be expected. It’s not easy to walk into a new classroom with a new teacher and start from scratch every single year. Watch for these sneaky symptoms of anxiety as the new school year begins:
How to Deal with Back-to-School Anxiety
Consistency and routines are always a great place to start when it comes to squashing those back-to-school worries! Try some of these strategies to help your child ease into the new school year:
Attend school (and be early!). While it’s perfectly normal to have worries when starting a new school year, it’s very important to attend school each day. A huge meltdown might have you wondering if you should simply try another day, but avoidance of school will only increase and reinforce your child’s anxiety. Missing school because of anxiety robs your child of the chance to gain mastery, make friends, enjoy a successful school day and develop a relationship with the teacher.
Get back to basics. It’s very difficult to feel calm, confident and in control when you are starving or exhausted. Anxiety can cause kids to struggle with sleep and eat a little less. This means that parents have to stay on top of those childhood basics.
Set an earlier bedtime for the entire family, make sure each day includes plenty of downtime, and provide balanced meals and nutritious snacks with plenty of time to eat. Eating on the run is stressful for kids.
Allow extra time in the mornings. Anxious children don’t like to be late, nor do they enjoy being rushed. Now that you’ve pushed that bedtime up, your child should be able to wake with plenty of time to eat, get dressed and get ready for the day.
Create healthy nighttime routines to make the mornings easier. Choosing clothes at night, packing snacks and filling water bottles and packing the backpack and placing it by the door are all time savers for anxious kids.
Avoid blanket statements. When kids express worries about school, it’s tempting to respond with generic statements such as, “Don’t worry about it!” or “You’ll love it!” These statements rarely provide reassurance for worriers. A better tactic is to address specific worries with your child.
When parents take the time to listen and help children come up with strategies to solve problems, kids feel more confident. If your child is worried about where to sit at lunch, for example, have him draw a map of the lunchroom and discuss possibilities.
Role-play. The best way to gain mastery over worries is to practice taking control of worrisome situations. Have your child create a list of school-related worries and act out different ways to solve the problems. I like to have kids try out two or three solutions per problem so that they always have a back-up plan.
Watch your words. Kids look to their parents for clues. If you appear overwhelmed and anxious on the first day of school, your child is likely to follow your lead.
It’s perfectly natural for parents to have worries at the beginning of the school year. Instead of hyper-focusing on the potential negatives or faking it, take the time to talk about feelings and worries as a family. When families work through their feelings together, they empower one another.
Back-to-school anxiety can be stressful for families. More often than not, the anxiety decreases as the child adjusts to the new school year. If the anxiety persists, seek help. It’s far better to learn to manage anxious feelings than to suffer in silence and struggle through the school year.
Back-to-School TipsThe following health and safety tips are from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
Making the First Day Easier
When Your Child Is Bullied
American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2017)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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