With Hurricane Florence edging ever closer to the southeastern coast this week, many of our communities may be affected by severe weather. While our first advice is to always follow all local evacuation orders, what if you live on the periphery and are expecting a lot of rain and gusty winds?
The weather may not be severe enough for you and your family to evacuate, but that doesn’t make it any less scary for your child. And with the news covering this storm nearly non-stop, your child may be listening – and their anxiety and fear may be growing.
So what can you do to keep your child calm during a storm?
- Limit media: Children feed off the anxiety of others, and there is nothing news agencies like to do more than build hype and feed excitement. Turn off the TV when your child is around (or change the channel from the news) and find other ways to pass the time.
- Keep your cool: Your child will feed off your energy. So if you are relaxed, they will follow suit.
- Acknowledge their feelings: It can be tempting to dismiss children’s feelings with a quick, “it will be ok” or “there is nothing to worry about.” But, they are more likely to calm down if they get the sense you understand how they feel. Look your child in the eyes and say something like, “I know you are scared, storms can be scary. I am going to be here with you and we will get through this together.”
- Confront their fears: Teach your child about the storm. Knowing why something happens can make the fear go away all together.
- Occupy their time: Keep your child preoccupied with a puzzle, toy or another activity to keep their mind off the storm.
- Plan for movement: Children’s physical and mental well-being are very connected. Being cooped up without opportunities to move their bodies can increase stress and anxiety. Push aside furniture and plan some physical interludes as the dark clouds pass overhead.
- Choose your go-to words: Come up with a calming phrase that eases your child. This phrase will help them to focus on you, not the storm, and lets them know you are there with them.
- Breathe: Teach your child small breathing exercises to calm them. Breathing techniques are a proven form of calming down an anxious child.
- Comfort them: Be there for them, hug them and don’t leave them alone abruptly. Knowing that you are there for them, mentally and physically, can help ease a child’s mind during a scary time.
The more hype around a storm, the more prevalent your child’s fear could be. When you know a big storm is coming, such as a hurricane, tropical storm or snow storm, try to create an action plan beforehand. Set-up emergency materials that may be needed during the storm, such as water, flashlights or non-perishable food items. Make sure to involve your child in the preparation of these emergency materials. Doing so can give them a sense of preparation, allowing them to feel ready for the storm and easing their minds over its intensity. While it may seem difficult to do, there are ways to keep your child calm during a storm!