One of the most common childhood fears is severe weather. Tornadoes and thunderstorms are particularly unsettling for children this time of year in the Midwest.

One reason that storms are so frightening to children is the fact that they are so visual. Children can see dark clouds forming and leaves being blown from trees by strong winds. Couple these scenes with tornado sirens blaring and a meteorologist on television flashing colorful maps and talking about the potential paths of destruction and you have the perfect storm.

One reason preschoolers and young children suffer weather anxiety is that they don’t have the ability to grasp time and distance. Therefore, even if they hear about deadly hurricanes in the South, they don’t understand that there is no threat to their home and family in Omaha. This is just one of the reasons why if the news is covering severe weather, the best rule of thumb is to turn the television off. Even if it is local weather, it is better to check your phone discreetly for updates.

Unfortunately, there are some kids who get especially anxious when it comes to severe weather. If you have one of these children, being proactive is critical. For example, let your child know how you will keep them safe in a storm. For example, tell them why you go to the basement when the tornado sirens go off. You also can make a tornado emergency preparedness kit. Letting your child be a part of the safety planning helps them to feel more in control.

While you need to let your child know that they will be safe, try not to dwell on their fears. Instead, reiterate that you will keep them safe and that you have a plan in place. Comfort them but then move on.

Pay careful attention to how you talk to your child about the possibility of severe weather, as well. When you dismiss their fears as baseless it can cause more problems because they will think that they can’t trust you. Severe weather is real and they know that.

Finally, make sure that you are aware of how you talk to your child about severe weather. When you use words that kids can’t understand such as inclement weather or torrential rains, they will fill in the blanks – often incorrectly. Instead, use words that are age appropriate. For example, big winds instead of gusts or lots of rain instead of flooding.

The good news is that fears surrounding severe weather usually decrease as a child gets older. Until then, do all that you can to keep your child calm in these situations knowing that their fears – like the weather – is likely to pass with time.

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