Kids and Storms

Dealing with scared children.

As I sit at my laptop wracking my brain about what to write about this week, I’m watching the TV weather people talk about impending tornadoes. This year seems to be particularly treacherous for these looming disasters.

Thoughts of the weather took me back to the storm we had a couple of months ago when we experienced the midnight tornado scare in St. Charles County.

I remember lying in bed with my husband and hearing the tornado sirens just as I was about to fall asleep. It was quickly approaching 11 p.m., and all I could think about were the four little people sleeping upstairs. My husband and I started to watch the news a little more carefully and began to move about within our house, looking out the doors and windows to see if we could spot anything dangerous.

I distinctly remember hearing towns very close to our home and thinking, "Should I wake the kids?" Worry consumed me. As the hail started to pepper the windows I sat unable to believe that none of the children had woken up. Once the weather forecaster became more adamant about taking shelter in the basement I said to my husband, ‘I really think we should get the kids up.'

Within seconds, my oldest daughter, who is 12, came rushing through our bedroom door, followed immediately by my 9-year-old son.

They roamed around the house with us for several minutes, looking out windows and listening to the weather reports. I was stunned over the behavior of my 9-year-old. I honestly think he believed we were going to die or end up like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. He roamed around in circles, his voice quivered each time he spoke, and nothing I said relieved his anxiety.

Meanwhile, I still had two children sleeping. When my husband finally gave the go ahead that we should head to the basement, I went upstairs to wake them. I went into my 7-year-old son’s room, shook his arm slightly and said “T, wake up! Tornado!” His eyes popped open, and he fled down the stairs faster than I’ve ever seen him go.

I was impressed with his ability to jump out of bed so quickly and comprehend the seriousness of the situation. He might be a future firefighter. My 6-year-old daughter was much more difficult to wake up, and I ended up carrying her down both flights of stairs.

Once we all hunkered down in the basement, my 9-year-old seemed even more nervous and agitated than before. By this time, he was shaking uncontrollably and wailing. He was completely hysterical. Everything the weather forecaster said only made things worse. I tried every version of comfort that I could think to give him, but nothing made a bit of difference. My other children sat staring at him, wondering what all the commotion was about.

After trying to calm him down for quite some time, I wondered if his dad being in a different home was the problem. We got text confirmation that things at his house were OK, and I thought that would ease his mind a bit. But no. I called my parents, who live down the street from us, thinking that might help. Still no change. We said a lot of prayers, and he pleaded with God to spare our home from any damage.

What about storms scare my child in such a big way? He’s never been stuck in a storm. None of my other children were as freaked out as he was, so clearly I didn’t teach them to be this way. My son is not a wimp by any means, so this wasn’t a natural reaction I’ve seen in him before--then again, we’ve not had that many instances where the weather has been this scary in our neighborhood.

How do you deal with your children when storms scare them? Do you have a way of comforting them that might help other parents? Share your advice here.

We were spared from any damage in this particular storm, and everyone headed off to bed by 12:30 a.m. My son woke at 5 a.m. the next morning to watch news coverage of the storm. He went to school and shared his experience with his classmates, only to find that he wasn’t alone in being awakened at 11:30 p.m. to take cover in the basement.

That afternoon, we spent some time together talking about our experience and those of his friends. We were thankful that our home, unlike many others, and our family, were safe. Hopefully, in the future we will again be blessed with safety, and I can remind my son that we survived the last experience. 

Kalen Ponche April 23, 2011 at 02:54 PM
My sister had a storm-phobia for a long time after she was in a big storm while camping one year. She would literally run off the soccer field when storm clouds rolled in. Eventually she grew out of it.
Tera Stahlhut April 25, 2011 at 02:15 AM
Thanks Kalen! I sure hope my son does. He was a nervous wreck again on Friday night, but thankfully our house only saw heavy rain. We were so much more fortunate than those in the Bridgeton and Maryland Heights area.


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