Parents have brightened my emails with questions about how they can help their children overcome their fears and stay safe during an unexpected summer storm.
Indoor or outdoor, thunderstorms can be scary for both kids and adults. If you want to help your child deal with their fears of loud thunder and thunderstorms while staying safe at the same time, I have some suggestions.
Teach your children why these storms occur. Explain how water and electricity penetrating clouds can cause lightning. Reading books about storms and how they arise can certainly help.
Show your kids how to be safe and go through this safety plan ahead of time. This plan should emphasize that you are trying to get inside ASAP and not be outside when the storm actually occurs. While hundreds of people are struck by lightning each year, you and your child can avoid it by taking the following measures:
Â¯ If you or your child is in the water – be it a pool, a lake or the ocean – get out, because water can conduct electricity.
Â¯ When the thunder pounds, go inside. Take shelter in a house or building, and if unavailable, in a car. If you can’t get in, don’t stand under or near large objects like trees as lightning is more likely to hit something large. Also, avoid being near metal conductors such as wires or fences.
Â¯ Stay away from phones and electrical appliances such as computers inside.
Find strategies to help your child gain confidence about their fears. Pots and pans louder than thunder can help. Wearing headphones to listen to music can be another way to easily escape the noise and lightning bolts in the sky. Playing a game with the family can 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 is over. This can also be a reward for mastering the adventure safely and confidently.
Hopefully tips like these will resonate with you when it comes to helping your young children weather a summer storm.
Lewis First, MD, is the director of pediatrics at the University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and the chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine. You can catch too “First with children” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and NBC5.