After a relatively smooth adjustment to her new school, my then 4-year-old daughter started asking for the weather forecast each morning and voicing worries that there was going to be a thunderstorm during her school day. She had never expressed concerns about the weather in the past nor had she witnessed any severe weather events. Her teachers also reported that she seemed nervous during the day when the skies were grey. So my husband and I soon became forecasters, giving her a brief, albeit slightly optimistic report of the weather each day – for a 90% chance of rain all day, we’d say “It might rain but not until you’re home from school.” Although this approach worked for a couple of days, she soon realized that mommy and daddy were not right all of the time, nor could we control the weather. So what to do?
As much as I wanted to continue to reassure my daughter and make her feel safe going off to school each day, I knew we had to help her face her fears, which meant exposing her to what she was afraid of. Clearly, we could not order up a good old thunderstorm with lighting but we could draw upon other resources. I ordered a couple of picture books on thunderstorms. We also listened to audio recordings of thunderstorms, and she was amazed to learn that people actually listen to these sounds in order to relax! I re-educated myself on what causes thunder and lightning and found a couple of YouTube videos that explained this in kid-friendly, non-scary terms. My husband dragged her out to the garage during a thunderstorm to watch it in action.
A few weeks later, she stopped asking about the weather. She has since requested that her dad take her out to the garage to watch other thunderstorms. And she relishes every opportunity to wear her rain boots and bring her umbrella to school, even when skies are clear.
My daughter’s anxiety about weather was relatively mild and short-lived. Certainly, children’s (and adults’) fears can be more serious, persistent, and impair daily functioning. In these cases, professional counseling can be useful.