Thunderstorms

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Thunderstorms

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Dark and Stormy Can Be Scary

It was such a hot, sunny day, but now the skies have darkened to bluish-gray. "Get out of the pool!" your Dad calls out. "I think it's going to storm."

Off in the distance, you hear a soft rumble of thunder. Maybe it will pass, you hope. But not this time. Fat raindrops almost sizzle as they hit the hot sidewalk. More rain and wind slashes at the windows. Lightning flashes bright, then BOOM! BANG! In the house, the lights flicker on and off and on again.

Uh-oh, nature is at it again. Loud thunderclaps surprise you and can make you jump. No wonder movies use thunder, lightning, and dark stormy nights when they want to create the mood for the scary parts! It's also no surprise that most kids are scared of thunderstorms at some time in their lives.

Whether you like them or not, you definitely want to be safe inside when one of them blows through your neighborhood. But some kids feel worried and nervous even when they're indoors. If that's you, you might need this 3-step plan for feeling better during a thunderstorm.

  1. Understand what's happening.
  2. Know how to stay safe.
  3. Find your calm.

Kids can tame fears and learn how to get through a thunderstorm more calmly instead of feeling so afraid. This can take time and practice — and sometimes an adult's help. But it also can be just a matter of getting older. Many fears melt away as you grow up. But if you're scared of thunderstorms, you're not alone. Most kids feel this way at some point.

Step 1: Understand What's Happening

Storms show nature at its most amazing — all loud and wet and windy and flashy. But storms aren't magic. Underneath it all, weather and science are happening. It's the combination of water and all that electricity passing through clouds that produces lightning. The electric boom of lightning heats up the atmosphere, causing the noise called thunder.

To learn more about these wonders of nature, talk to your mom and dad or science teacher. Go to the library to find books or DVDs about weather. Some parts of the country have more thunderstorms than others. What's the weather like in your area?

Step 2: Know How to Stay Safe

No matter how much you know about the science of storms, you still need to be inside when one is happening. Even the birds, squirrels, bunnies, and other outdoor creatures pick a safe spot to wait out a storm. Did you ever see birds zipping away to their nests when a storm's coming? They don't want to get all wet and neither do you.

Even more important, you don't want to get struck by lightning. Lightning strikes — where someone gets hurt by lightning — are rare, but it's the reason a lot of kids worry about storms. The good news is that you can learn rules to follow that keep you safe when lightning is flashing:

  • Get out of the pool, lake, ocean, or any body of water. Water conducts electricity, meaning that electricity can travel through water.
  • If you're outside, seek shelter in a house or building. If there's no house or building, wait out the storm in a car.
  • If you're outside and can't get inside, don't stand under or near large objects, like tall trees. Lightning is more likely to hit something tall.
  • Plan ahead. Talk with your parents about what to do if you get caught in a storm. Also be aware of the weather forecast when you'll be outdoors, such as on a camping trip. Then you'll be ready with a plan for getting to shelter if a storm blows up.

Step 3: Find Your Calm

Once you're safe inside, what if you're still worried? You can tell a parent about the feelings you're having. Describe what's bothering you. What would make you feel better? You might snuggle up with mom or dad or even a pet. Imagine your dog or cat was the one who was scared. You would probably hold your pet close and talk softly. What could you say? "It's only a storm, Fluffy. It will be over soon."

You might encourage your loveable pet to see the upside of a storm. When you're nice and snug indoors, you have a front-row seat to quite a show. Watch the wind bend the trees around and the leaves swirl through the air. And all that lightning and thunder can be better than fireworks on the Fourth of July.

You also can do some easy math to figure out how far away the lightning strikes are. Watch for the flash, then start counting the seconds that pass until you hear the thunder. Divide that number by 5 and you'll have the approximate distance in miles. This can be helpful because you can follow the progress of the storm as it clears out of your area.

If you'd rather not soak up the noise and commotion, you could escape under your headphones and listen to some music. Or take advantage of inside time to play a board game, read a book, or write down what you're thinking and feeling at that very moment. Maybe you'll decide to draw a picture or write a poem about this storm.

Here Comes the Sun

By the time you do that, you might look outside and notice the skies are brightening. This storm has passed, just like all of them do. Now what? Hey, those puddles look ready to jump in! Go ahead, you're waterproof.

And sometimes the sun comes out right away after a storm. And you know what that means. If you look for it, you just might see that super-splash of color in the sky — a perfect rainbow!

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: September 2011

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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