Tips for tackling 'thunderphobia' in children - KMSP-TV

Tips for tackling 'thunderphobia' in children

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Severe weather can trigger severe anxiety, especially in children, and the Mayo Clinic Children's Center is offering ways for parents to confront the subject for a stress-free storm season.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health problem in kids, and they often take their weather-related fears with them to school, hindering their concentration, Children's Center anxiety prevention expert and psychologist Dr. Stephen Whiteside says.

Kids can display certain behaviors that stem from storm anxiety and get in the way of their daily activities, including a fear of leaving the house and constant weather forecast monitoring.

Dr. Whiteside says parents shouldn't dismiss the fears, and shouldn't tell the child he or she is being silly, but rather, parents should tackle the issue head-on with sound reasoning.

"The important thing for parents is to remember to be warm and supportive of your child," Dr. Whiteside says. "If you get anxious or frustrated or upset, that's just going to make things worse. Try to stay calm and help your child gradually face their fears in a step-by-step fashion."

Dr. Whiteside's tips for talking to kids about weather-related anxiety:

1. Be calm and supportive. Tell children things like thunder won't hurt them. Explain that storms are a normal part of nature.

2. Talk about storms matter-of-factly. Some kids may seem afraid of storms, but are really interested in learning more about them.

3. The same type of exposure-based behavioral therapy used to defeat many worries and phobias works well with weather-related phobias. Dr. Whiteside says it boils down to helping children face their fears by gradually helping them learn they can handle a fear, and other uncertainties of life, on their own.

4. Help children face their fear of storms by reading about them, or watching videos of tornadoes, hurricanes and other big storms.

5. If the anxiety doesn't diminish, or begins to create greater stress for the child or the parent, get the assistance of a mental health professional.

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