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Helping A Frightened Child Cope

My five-year-old, Grace, has been afraid of thunder for a couple of years now. The severity of her fear comes and goes, but this week it’s gotten much worse. We had a bad storm on Wednesday; several funnel clouds were spotted, and we were in the direct path of a downburst, pictured above.

The downburst came out of nowhere. One minute it was thundering and just a light breeze, and then, bam! I thought we’d been hit by a tornado for a second. The birdbath flew across the yard, and a big crash echoed against the sliding glass door in the kitchen.

Turns out that was our new grill. The wind had sent it flying and pulled the cover off. The grill was fine, but the rain was coming, and I didn’t want it exposed. So I rushed out onto the deck, in the middle of frighteningly strong winds, and tried to deal with it. Things were blowing around the yard like crazy, and in retrospect, it was a stupid move, especially since Grace was watching the whole time.

I forgot – as I often do – to put myself in her shoes and look at the world through her eyes. She was crying, saying things like “Mommy, I love you, you’re my love, we’ll never be apart.” I knew she was scared, but it didn’t dawn on me until I was back inside the house that she was afraid something was going to happen to me, and she’d be left alone.

The storm continued, the tornado sirens went off, the thunder was immense, and the hail was wicked. We lost power for two hours. She was terrified the whole time. Of course, her father was out of town so it was just the two of us. I managed to get her settled down onto the couch in the basement, but she wouldn’t let herself go to sleep.

Eventually things calmed down and I got her to bed, but she wound up with me in the middle of the night because of the thunder. Last two nights have had the same result. She’s afraid of every loud noise, asking ‘what’s that’ when a truck lumbers by. She won’t let me out of her sight, she keeps talking about the storm, and if I leave her with her Dad, she sobs and cries after me. She hasn’t done that since she was two.

During last night’s round of storms, she slept with us, and even when she was asleep, her little body trembled every time it thundered.

Tonight she’s finally in her own bed, thanks to nice weather. I feel so badly for her. She’s so scared, and it doesn’t seem to help to tell her it’s just noise, it can’t hurt her. I don’t mind her sleeping with us when she’s scared, but I hate to see the fear emanating from her. And part of it’s my fault, because she saw me struggling in the wind like an idiot. I finally got her to tell me today she was afraid something was going to happen to me.

It’s so heartbreaking. I try so hard to protect her, and then a moment of agitation undoes everything. I know all I can do is ride it out, but seeing your child so upset is one of the worst things in the world. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could put them in a safety bubble and still find away to keep them happy and socialized?

Hopefully this all passes soon. I will keep reassuring her, keep letting her know I’m there and always will be. It’s all I can do for her, and that’s the most frustrating part of all.

5 comments on… “Helping A Frightened Child Cope”

  1. awwww breaks a mother's heart to read this. So sweet and sad. Fear is so powerful when you are a child.I knew some people who would have a mini party everytime there was a thunderstorm. It worked. Not so easy these days with all the images we see of tornadoes and floods and tsunamis. Do you try to limit her exposure to news of these? I know I try to with my littlest, but it's not always possible.When it gets ominous we all go to the basement, which is safer, I suppose, but also minimizes the frightening noises of wind and rain and thunder.I suppose all you can do is love her up, try to remain calm yourself so that she doesn't pick up on your anxiety.Good luck (and on your weight loss too! Congratulations!)

  2. Poor thing! My younger sister was SUPER scared of storms when we were young.She got better as she got older, though. It takes time – and it is hard with all the terrible weather related news we seem to get lately.

  3. Thanks for the comments, guys. A mini party sounds like a good idea, but she gets so upset lately I'm not even sure that would work. I do try to limit her exposure, but she saw me dealing with the wind and storm the other night and that really affected her. Thanks:)Wosushi, I was scared as well, but I think Grace might be worse. I just have to keep pulling her through. Thanks for the post!

  4. Hold her, love her, hold her and love her some more. It sounds natural that she'd be so frightened. I know I would be! Too ignore it or try to distract her seems futile and temporary, like holding a beach ball under water. It (the fear) will pop up in other ways…they always do. My experience has taught me to walk thru the fires, to feel it all, to talk about it, to expose every angle of the fear, looking it straight in the face. Then, once you have shone light on it, remind her of all the things you two need to do together, of all the things you WILL do together, that its not your time to be separated yet. Give her faith in the universe and its plan for her, for what she wants and dreams. As you love her and hold her, she will learn to love and hold herself. To me…there are few greater gifts we can give our children. Good luck, sweet Mama.

  5. BrynneThank you. Distracting her is definitely futile. I explained to her that Daddy and I would never let anything happen to her. I really like your thoughts on reminding her of all the things we will do together and all the plans we have. Thank you so much for your sweet advice!

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