Enter to win every day in CTNOW's 21 Days of Summer Giveaways. Click here to see today's prize.
Family Fun
Family Fun

Scared of lightning

 Your 10-year-old isn't outgrowing her fear of lightning. What's wrong?

Parent advice from our panel of staff contributors

Probably nothing. But I think knowledge cancels out fear, and happily there's plenty you can teach your 10-year-old about lightning. Show her cool photos and videos; teach her the safety steps that ensure lightning can't hurt her. Heck, judging by social media posts, if you can teach her that the word isn't spelled "lightening," she'll be way ahead of the game.

Phil Vettel

When we were small, our father would gather the kids on the porch as a storm approached, then we'd sit there, as a family, and watch it hit. Lightning, thunder, wind … scary stuff to a kid on his own. But in the company of the family — laughing, talking, learning about what causes lightning and thunder, maybe taking some photos — there was nothing to fear. We did the same thing with our kids, and they (and we) still enjoy watching a good storm roll in.

Bill Hageman

Expert advice

"A child who has been generally anxious or fearful for her whole life needs your help finding signs of safety," says clinical psychologist Lawrence J. Cohen, author of "The Opposite of Worry: The Playful Parenting Approach to Childhood Anxieties and Fears" (Ballantine Books). "The anxious brain is biased for danger. It sees signs of danger much better than signs of safety."

Rather than waiting for her to outgrow the fear (which may or may not happen eventually), patiently help her put her perfectly valid fear of lightning, which is capable of causing real harm, after all, in perspective.

"Parents often fall too far to one side or the other," Cohen says. "Either, 'Oh, no! I don't want you to be upset! We'll make sure we never go outside when there's a chance of thunderstorms. You don't have to go to camp.' Or, 'Don't be such a baby. It's not going to hurt you.'

"In between is, 'I can see you're scared and I want to help you.'"

Then tackle the fear as a project, Cohen says, rather than something you will solve overnight.

"You can start by saying to your child, gently, 'Look at me and really see my eyes and see whether I'm worried about this,'" he says. "Start drawing them out of that stuck, scared place."

Inch her closer and closer to a window or porch where she can safely watch and hear the thunderstorm. It may take several storms before your daughter makes it all the way to the viewing spot.

"It's time consuming, but it's really worth it," Cohen says. "When a child lives in fear, they operate at either zero or 100. Either they've avoided the thing altogether — the spider, lightning, the pool — and they're at zero. Or they're anywhere near the fear and they're flooded, and they're immediately at 100."

You want to get her used to operating at a midpoint between the two. She's aware of the lightning, but she isn't flooded with fear.

"You don't want to find yourself saying, 'You never have to play outside,'" Cohen says. "You need to give them a gentle push and tackle the fear one small step at a time."

Have a solution? Since starting preschool, your son taunts his sister with "boys are better" statements. What gives? Find "The Parent 'Hood" page on Facebook, to post your questions and solutions.

Copyright © 2015, CT Now
Related Content
  • Giant Slide The City Slipping Into Hartford

    Giant Slide The City Slipping Into Hartford

    More than 3,500 people will relive a little bit of their childhoods on a giant scale as they slip and slide for 1,000 feet down Trinity Street in Hartford when Slide the City comes to town Saturday, Aug. 22.

  • A Madison Daycation: A Beach, A Bookstore, A Beautiful Hotel

    A Madison Daycation: A Beach, A Bookstore, A Beautiful Hotel

    Downtown Madison, Connecticut, has the feel of a beach town, though the beach itself is nearly 2 miles away. In addition to shops and restaurants, the town has one of the best independent bookstores in the state and a century-old independent movie theater.

  • Caribbean and Jerk Fest Returns To The Riverfront

    Jamaican reggae artist Luciano, Barbadian jazz saxophonist Elan Trotman, the music and dance troop Iroko Nuevo and other Caribbean-style performers head to Mortensen Riverfront Plaza on Saturday, Aug. 1, from 1 to 11 p.m. for the 10th annual Taste of the Caribbean and Jerk Festival.

  • 10 Tips For The Best Summer Runs

    10 Tips For The Best Summer Runs

    Summer is a great time for running in Connecticut — outside of the heat and humidity, the swarms of mosquitoes and flies and the crowds trying to enjoy this short-lived season of sunshine. Besides that, it's great getting a chance to lay down the ear warmers and unearth those tank tops. But once...

  • Sounds Of Mexico Come To Old State House Farmer's Market

    Sounds Of Mexico Come To Old State House Farmer's Market

    The sounds of Mexico, along with dancing, hand-clapping and maraca-shaking, come to the Old State House Farmers Market. Fiesta del Norte, Connecticut's first mariachi band, performs on Friday, July 31, at noon at Connecticut's Old State House, 800 Main St., Hartford.

  • Sunflower Maze Returns To Lyman Orchards

    Sunflower Maze Returns To Lyman Orchards

    Dinosaurs return to the fields of Lyman Orchards in Middlefield when its annual sunflower maze opens Saturday, Aug. 1. This year's maze, approximately three acres, is shaped like a Tyrannosaurus Rex.