What helps my kids relax about storms is to watch them, experience them, and talk about them. It's great to find ways to have fun in the rain. Even a simple walk down the street can be a real treat during a storm. When a nighttime storm happens, remembering the fun we've had playing in rain during the day can be a real comfort. Think about it: when we head inside at the first sign of rain, what does that communicate to our kids?
Thursday night's storm was a real doozy. The lightning and loud thunder went on for a couple of hours in the night. I knew L would be pretty freaked by this one. Sure enough, when I opened her bedroom door and crept in, I found her with her hands over her ears, and her face squashed into her pillow. She was sweating. (J slept right through it!)
I brought her to my bed, which is surrounded on all sides by windows. There is a wonderful, spreading silver maple just outside the window. I perched her on my lap and held her tight. Although it was the middle of the night, the city lights, and the frequent bursts of lightning kept the yard pretty well lit. We watched the rain. We watched the tree moving in the wind, and I rocked her with that same rhythm. When the sky lit up with lightning, I held her tight and told her she was safe.
Then, I started pointing out what I could see, and asking her to tell me what she could see. Once she started noticing the familiar she seemed to feel more comfortable, and it helped her mellow out considerably:
- We watched the limbs wave back and forth in the rain.
- We watched the raindrops pour down over stuff in the yard: my wheelbarrow, the lawnchairs, the sandbox, the birdbath.
- I pointed out the garden, and described the water going down into the soil, so the plants could slurp it up with their roots.
- We listed animals that were so happy it was raining: The ducks on the lake. The birds in the trees, getting a bath and splashing in the puddles. The squirrels in the trees, getting their fur wet and clean.
- We remembered times that she and J and I have splashed in puddles and played in the rain.
- And, of course, we talked about thunder. I didn't bother explaining to her that thunder is created by the sudden burst of heated air from the lightning. I didn't go into details about electrons flying around in the sky (a.k.a. lightning). I simply told her that thunder is the sound made by two heavy clouds bumping into each other way up in the sky. The clouds are heavy because they are full of water. A little "scientific license" is necessary sometimes. Heavy clouds, she can relate to. Electrons and air pressure? We'll get to that, later.
Since we didn't go out in the middle of the night, the next day, we checked out the effects of the storm. We looked at puddles. Splashed in them. We checked out the garden, plants still drooping and heavy with the rain. We felt the dirt, felt the softness, smelled the richness of the wet soil. We needed to get up close and personal with the rainstorm. This takes some of the mystery away, and it's good for kids to see that everything's OK, and for the most part, still the same, even after a loud, wet, long rainstorm. Wet and soggy and muddy, but OK.