Parents deal with children's fears after storms

One of hundreds of North Carolina homes damaged by storms Saturday (uReport image submitted by ABC11 viewer)

April 21, 2011 3:50:36 PM PDT
It's not uncommon for children to be terrified of storms, but kids who experienced the severe weather last weekend may want to crawl into bed with their parents to feel safe.

When the string of violent tornadoes hit the region Saturday, the Flores family of Apex had one place to hide

"I'm like, what's the interior room without a window that we have? Our little closet is the only thing we have without a window," said Maggie Flores. "We had our overhead light here. We had a handheld flashlight and a Bible, and we read and stayed calm."

"I went from calm to nervous to calm to nervous," said 10-year-old Austin Flores.

"At first we got scared then we started to calm down," said 8-year-old Jason Flores.

And when the storm passed, the family didn't have any damage to their home - unlike thousands of others around the region.

Still 10-year-old Austin admits he fears future storms.

"Sometimes I think a tornado is going to hit our house, that it's going to destroy everything," he said.

Those feelings are normal according to Raleigh child psychologist Dr. Alanna Conder. She volunteered for the Red Cross after previous tornadoes and shares what those children experienced.

"Difficulty falling asleep, some kids were worried about specific rooms in their house if there was a location where roof had damage," she said. "If they were coloring at the time when they had to get into the bathroom, they may not want to color anymore. They think that any superstitious behaviors on their part could bring on levels of danger."

Conder has advice for parents: Explain not all storms are destructive. Reassure them that your home is safe. Provide a distracting activity when the next storm approaches and be physically present, closer to your kids, so they know you're not going anywhere.

"You want to maintain structure and continuity and be reassuring in what you're telling the child. But I think you're going to want to be more understanding that they are going to be upset," she explained.

It's advice the Flores family will follow, and there's one more thing they have.

"We have strong faith, so that's what helps us through times of distress," said Maggie Flores.

Whether you had no damage like the Flores family or severe damage like others, Conder says if your kids are having a tough time coping you should have them see their school counselor or ask the Red Cross for counseling.

As for the question about letting them sleep with mom and dad, she says its better if you sleep next to your kids in their beds to reassure them there's nothing to fear in their own room. Then, make your way out once they're asleep.

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