Helping your child safely weather a thunderstorm
Parents have been lightening, or should I say brightening, up my emails with questions about helping their children overcome their fears and stay safe during an unexpected summer thunderstorm.
Whether you are indoors or outdoors, thunderstorms can be scary for children and for adults as well. If you want to help your child deal with their fears around a loud thunder and lightning storm and stay safe at the same time, I have some suggestions.
Teach your children about why these storms occur. Explain how water and electricity passing through clouds can result in lightning. Reading books about storms and how they form can certainly help.
Show your children how to be safe and go over that safety plan in advance. This plan should emphasize trying to get indoors as quickly as possible and not being outside when the storm is actually occurring. While several hundred people are struck each year by lightning, your child and you can avoid this from happening by taking the following steps:
¯ If you or your child are in the water — be it pool, lake or ocean — get out since water can be a conductor for electricity.
¯ When thunder roars, go indoors. Seek shelter in a house or building and if not available, then in a car. If you cannot get inside, don’t stand under or near large objects like trees, since lightning is more apt to strike something tall. Also avoid being near metal conductors like wires or fences.
¯ When inside, stay off of phones and electrical appliances, such as computers.
Find strategies to help your child gain confidence over their fears. Banging pots and pans louder than thunder may help. Wearing headphones to listen to music may be another option to simply escape from the noise and lightning bolts in the sky. Playing a game with family may also be a good distraction during a storm. And it’s always good to wait 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder before going out again.
Look for a rainbow after the storm has passed. This can also be a reward for getting through the adventure in a safe and confident way.
Hopefully, tips like these will strike home with you when it comes to helping your young children get through a summer storm.
Lewis First, MD, is chief of pediatrics at the University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and NBC5.