It's not unusual for children - or adults, for that matter - to be afraid of thunderstorms and severe weather.
A little fear can be good; it makes us more cautious and causes us to prepare for the worst. But for some children the sound of approaching thunder or even just talk over severe weather on the TV can trigger a much stronger reaction.
What are some of the signs that your child may have an irrational phobia of storms? Amy Kiehne, a children's therapist at teh Community Counseling Center in Cape Girardeau, says that if their fear of storms is so strong that they become unable to behave normally, there may be a problem. Some symptoms might include:
Kiene says that children who have had a close personal experience with severe weather or tornadoes may be particularly at risk for developing such a phobia. If a friend or a loved one has been hurt or killed, or if the child's home or school has been damaged, their anxiety can, understandably, be especially intense.
Kiene says that there are steps parents can take to comfort fearful children whenever severe weather approaches. She says that simply talking with them about their feelings and fears can be very helpful, especially with younger children who are still developing the vocabulary to talk about such things. Also, parents can try to distract fearful children with games or videos. And if that does become neccesary to retreat to a basement or storm shelter, be sure to bring a favorite toy or game along. In the longer term, Kiehne says that professional counseling can be very helpful in teaching children to relax and better cope with their severe weather fears.
Children with storm phobia will not automatically outgrow that fear as they become adults. In fact, Kiehne says that such a fear can become an even more serious problem in adulthood, interfering with work or social behavior. She particularly advises parents whose children have been closely affected by severe weather to watch out for signs that they might be having trouble.