Have you noticed that climate change and hurricane season produce a constant flow of weather events? Children and adolescents who are already emotionally sensitive may be susceptible to stress caused by these continual weather reminders. We can consider these “weather worries.” Stress and anxiety impact individuals both emotionally, physically, and socially. So, how do we offer reassurance? Luckily, there are many simple strategies that parents may utilize to calm children’s’ fears.
Talk openly with your child about their fears, reminding them that it is normal to feel worried about severe weather. Remember that kids are constantly watching their parents for cues on how to respond. It is important that adults model appropriate responses to weather warnings. Both sharing your weather worries with your child and talking through your problem-solving process will show them how to handle difficult emotions. Encourage your child to engage in a coping activity if they appear overly distressed, such as listening to calming music or coloring.
Another strategy is to limit their exposure to media, especially during an impending weather event. Limiting your child or adolescents access to these media sources is one way to prevent weather worries. News channels likely will try and increase viewer’s fear to increase their ratings. If your child is allowed to use media, then a parent should be nearby to monitor what they are watching. Close monitoring allows parents the opportunity to open up discussion when a child views a weather warning and offer reassurance. Also, parents should turn off sound notifications for weather on their mobile phones, since they may trigger anxious feelings. For additional tips, check out NASP’s handout for families and educators about handling natural disasters.
Frequently, a large part of anxiety is facing the unknown and feeling out of control. Families can work together to become prepared for extreme weather by putting together their own disaster preparedness kit. Be sure to include fun activity items such as card games and comforting items such as photos and stuffed animals. Taking proactive steps, such as developing a family plan for handling extreme weather events, will help soothe your child’s stress, giving them a sense of control. A checklist of what to include in your family’s kit may be found here.
Additional proactive steps include investing in your community as a family. Research has demonstrated that resilient communities are less susceptible to significant mental health impacts of a disaster. Community action increasing cooperation and cohesion and providing meaningful opportunities for action. Not only will community involvement increase your community’s resilience, but it will improve your family’s well-being. Volunteerism and community service have been demonstrated to positively impact the well-being not only for those benefiting from the service but for those providing the service.
If your child’s anxiety and worries continue despite your efforts to reassure them and interfere with your daily lives, then it may be time to see outside support. Therapists utilize many evidence-based strategies to teach your child to successfully cope with stress and anxiety.
Dr. Laura Frame
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