If your child is frightened by the loud crashes and bright flashes, the best way to ease their concerns is to not be dismissive, according to psychologist and founder of Fundamentally Children, Dr Amanda Gummer.
“It’s the same with any fear, children need to understand that their fear isn’t silly and that it’s okay to be afraid of things,” she tells HuffPost UK. “They need to know you understand that they can’t help it.”
Once this dialogue is established, the next step is tackling fear of the unknown.
According to Dr Gummer, there may be a biological, evolutionary reason why children fear thunder, stemmed from a time when we needed to shelter from rough weather for safety. But the majority of fear stems from lack of understanding about what thunder and lightning is.
To tackle this, some parents choose to create a story to explain the bangs and crashes, such as “it’s God being angry” or “it’s clouds bumping into each other”, but Dr Gummer doesn’t recommend this method.
“I think children are a lot more able to understand science and the world around them than we give them credit for and we often confuse them by giving them fantasy stories and random explanations,” she says. “If they believe that you’re being accurate and honest with them, they are much less likely to worry because they trust what you’re saying.”
“I think children are a lot more able to understand science and the world around them than we give them credit for.”
Because of this, she recommends explaining thunder and lighting in an age-appropriate scientific way. Clinical hypnotherapist and phobia specialist Adam Cox agrees.
“Parents can help their children by educating them. For example, they can explain the science behind thunder and lightning and turn it from a fear into an interest,” he says. “Thunder and lightning is a naturally occurring phenomenon and so has lots of interesting aspects to it.”
Another technique is to distract children from the fear by turning the storm into something fun. “You can do this by giving them a task such as counting the interval between thunder and lightning. This keeps them occupied and turns the fear into a game,” Cox adds.
If a storm occurs at nighttime, Dr Gummer advocates going into your child’s room, rather than bringing them into yours, to maintain some sense of normality but also turn the night into an adventure.
“Watch the storm from the window and start a conversation about how lucky you are to have a nice, warm house to live in,” she says. “You can wonder in the marvel of nature and especially with older kids, that can nurture their curiosity and their understanding of the world, rather than it being something to hide from. You can relish the power of it together.”