Monday, May 12, 2014

Kids and Storms

Spring brings the thunderstorm season back to this little place here.  And with it, some observations on little kids and fear of storms.

There was a day last week when DD1 came home from her job at the preschool and told me that one of the 4-year-olds had brought head phones to school with him that day.  Not the kind of head phones you use to listen to music, but the kind some people wear while mowing the lawn, to drown out the noise of the machinery.  He had brought them in because the weather forecast was for storms, and he is afraid of thunderstorms.  So when it is stormy, he wears the headphones.

Which led DD1 to ask me "Were we ever afraid of storms when we were little?"

To which I replied "No.  Well, you, personally, tried to be, but I taught you not to."

Let me explain.  DD1 was the only one of my four kids to ever show fear of storms.  And I honestly blame that on her aunt.  Because it was after being babysat by that aunt during a stormy afternoon, that DD1 showed fear the next time a storm rolled in.  (This aunt is, still today, very leery of storms, but at least has stopped calling DH and I to tell us we should go to our basement every time the weatherman says a 'severe' thunderstorm is in the area.)

So how did I teach DD1 (and the rest of my kids) not to fear storms?  By making storms seem interesting more than fearsome.  When it thundered, I would say "Wow!  That was loud!"  and tell them how when I was a little girl my grandmother would say that thunder was God bowling up in heaven and the more thunder there was, the better bowling game He was having.  And then, of course, being a stickler for truth, I explained that the sound really was made by cold air and hot air crashing together, which made the storm.

When there was lightning, we would count how long before you could hear thunder and then they would 'know' how far away the storm was from us.  If the storm wasn't upon us yet, but I could see one brewing, I would take them outside(if we weren't all ready)  and we'd watch the cloud formations and I'd talk about how thunderheads are shaped and how to recognize them.  We'd also feel and smell the wind (to this day, DS1 amazes people with his ability to 'smell' rain or snow in the air hours before it arrives).

When the storm would be overhead, we'd go in the house, and watch out the windows.  We'd still watch the clouds and how the trees moved in the wind.  We'd watch the lightning and call out what color it was.  Lightning isn't just a white flash; it can be yellow, or blue, or green or even pink.  When it would thunder hard enough to shake the house, we'd all look at each other and say "that was a good one!"

That isn't to say we don't take precautions.  If you know the sky, and you know what to look for, you can tell a run of the mill, no worries storm from one that can spew tornadoes.  Swirling clouds are a clue.  So are clouds with pointy bottoms. So is a flat yellow sky in the distance and animals behaving strangely.  Those are times to take cover in the basement.   Calmly, without hysterics.  Little kids can be taught this too.

Knowledge is power, and power removes fear.  Teach a child the science and wonders of storms and you will empower them to not be afraid.

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