How To Keep Your Child Calm During a Storm
I love to be out on the playground on a beautiful day in the spring! But in many of the places you live, springtime means storms. Depending on where you live this could mean tornadoes, hurricanes, or a simple lightning or hail storm. Those last two are common in the great state of Texas, where we are!
Children With Sensory Issues
A lot of our parents tell us that their kids have trouble handling storms. Many of our clients with sensory issues are very fearful of storms. And we have storms often! Storms aren’t selective, so we sometimes have them during clinic hours, while your kids are in treatment. I thought I’d let you know a little bit about the way we address storms here in the clinic.
We are very sensitive to the kids’ level of fear. Storms are loud. They’re unpredictable. The sky lights up. Things happen in storms that don’t normally happen, and that is assumed to be not safe. Because of this, we are very, very careful of a couple of things.
Our Reaction is Key
The first thing we’re careful about is our reaction. When thunder crashes or the sky lights up, we do not pay attention to it. We do not draw attention to it, because many times our clients feed off of our attention, and even our nonverbal clients can feel our intensity. They completely understand. They can read our stress level and respond to that stress level, so we bring it way, way down. I also don’t take my kid into a treatment space with a lot of windows. Instead, I might go to a room like our testing room which has no windows. That way they won’t react to the light, and in an interior room, they won’t hear the sound.
You might be at home with your child when a storm hits, or you might be at the mall. But wherever you are, you can use these ideas to help your child manage the storm. You can manage your own reaction, and then take them to a room in the house or mall that is away from windows and where the noise is less frightening.
At home, I am also careful to not have the radio or TV on with weather reports, because the kids will react to that. Your safest bet is probably to get your weather information from your phone, but you want to try to be subtle about it. Again, at the center, we do not react to the storm. We don’t talk about it. Our clinicians don’t say to each other, “Did you see that? I think hail is coming! We’re in the red! Look at the radar!” They might do that in their office or in a private space, but not during treatment.
If You Lose Power
We have also been in situations where our lights have gone out, and of course, this sometimes happens at home too. Usually, this is very temporary. If the lights were out for an extended period of time we would notify you and probably exit the facility or have you guys go home. But sometimes the lights will flash and flicker, and go out and come back on. We usually try to make a game out of this. If you can make it fun in a game, and say “Oooh! It’s dark! Let me see if I can find you!” they really respond to your reaction. So if I can, I make it into a game, or I make it an imaginary event, or something that is not threatening.
If Your Child Panics
If your kids do get to the point of panic, go back and use your zones of regulation that your therapists talk about. Things that are calming. What can we do to calm down? If they’re going from green zone to yellow zone to red zone, we want to try to bring them back by drinking some water, blowing some bubbles, taking breaths, whatever works to bring them back in if they try to go into fight or flight mode. You can talk to your therapists about this. They know your kiddos and can give you individualized suggestions for what works for your kids. They’ll be happy to share the zones of regulation strategies they’re using with your kids.
Your Next Step
Hopefully, this will give you some good ideas on how to handle storms. I can’t change the weather—none of us can! But there are good coping strategies you can use with your kids. As always, please feel free to ask your therapist for ideas that will work for your kiddos.