Monthly Archives: July 2010

Weather Worries

As a kid I always got excited about thunderstorms and tornadoes. I would run outside to see them when possible. However, for many kids, severe weather is a source of significant anxiety.

Summer is severe weather season in Minnesota and if you live here you know we’ve had our share lately of intense thunderstorms, hail, high winds, and even tornadoes. Studies show that fear of personal harm associated with severe weather is quite common in kids grades 2 through 12 and it makes the top-20 list of things kids worry about (other top stresses for kids include public speaking, terrorist attacks, drowning, monsters/ghosts, and loss of a parent).

Kids can learn to manage weather related fears (and other fears). Self-care skills can help build their confidence in coping more positively around feelings of anxiety before or during extreme weather (watch Tim Culbert, MD, on WCCO working with a patient and family on these self-care skills).

Self-care skills that are calming include:

  • mental imagery
  • positive self-talk
  • muscle relation
  • meditation
  • yoga
  • relaxation breathing
  • aromatherapy (smelling relaxing scented oils like lavender and orange)
  • acupressure

Parents can also model a calm, self-controlled style when inclement weather strikes (this is a good self-care skills exercise to practice and model at home as a family unit).

If kids anxiety related to storms and tornadoes interferes substantially with day-to-day life (for example they won’t go outside – even in good weather), then they should see a pediatrician or child psychologist for further evaluation.

Here are some tips and resources I find useful in helping kids cope with anxiety around severe weather:

Having A Plan

  • Have a Weather Worries Toolkit stashed in the basement or wherever you go for severe weather
  • Include a board game that you can play, some scented candles, music CDs that are relaxing and some comfy blankets and pillows

Finding The Calm Within The Storm – Things to Do

  • Acknowledge Your Child’s Fear. Do not criticize, ignore, or belittle these feelings. Talk about it openly and give a name/words to what it is they are most afraid about.
  • Have a Plan and Rehearse It. It is best to practice skills when things are calm and controlled. Practice several times, then you will all be ready when severe weather occurs. With practice kids develop mastery and confidence. Parents should practice with younger kids and also model these techniques.
  • Limit Media Exposure. Television and radio media will sometimes cover inclement weather intensely. It is best to limit children’s exposure to this.
  • Get The Facts. Research the facts about severe weather and understand the reality of it and the conditions for it. Knowledge is power and will often reduce fears.

Websites about Severe Weather for Kids

Children’s Books about Severe Weather and/or Stress Management

  • Be The Boss of Your Stress Book and Kit
    Timothy Culbert and Rebecca Kajander
  • The Buffalo Storm
    Katherine Applegate
  • Franklin and The Thunderstorm
    Paulette Bourgeois
  • Flash, Crash, Rumble and Roll
    Franklyn Branley

What strategies do you use when helping your children cope with fear or anxiety around severe weather (or other fears)?

Tim Culbert, MD

Dr. Tim Culbert is the medical director of Children’s Integrative Medicine program. Read more about him in his first post to the Kids’ Health blog.

Nothing You Do For A Teen is Ever Wasted!

A recent Star Tribune article tells us that four out of five teens surveyed had no meaningful relationships with adults outside their immediate families. This is concerning, because one thing we know that helps teens grow up to be healthy and happy is connecting with at least one positive adult.

In years past, this happened more naturally because teens were often engaged in the adult world through work, apprenticeships, etc. Today, teens spend most of their time with other teens. A few lucky teens may have a coach or a neighbor who “clicks” with them and provides mentorship, but many teens go without these important adult guides. Teens are at an age where it’s their developmental task to find their place in the world, and part of that process is connecting with adults outside of their families.

Sometimes teens seem disinterested in the world of adults. My experience, however, is that teens are often really craving adult attention, especially if it isn’t based on enforcing rules and discipline. One of the great things about connecting with a teen that isn’t your own child is that it isn’t your job to provide discipline. You get to be the supportive, caring, nonjudgmental adult.

As parents, we also need to encourage our teens to reach out to other positive adults. When my daughter turned 13, we asked those important adults in her life to write her a letter, saying whatever they wanted to communicate on the occasion of her official entry into adolescence. We made a scrapbook of all of those supportive notes and gave it to her as a birthday gift. Knowing that the teen years can be tough, and that she might not always want to come to her parents for help, we wanted her to have a reminder that she has many adults in her corner, rooting for her.

At TAMS, one way we work to provide mentorship to teens is through our peer education program. Here is a video describing that experience.

My experience working with teens is that they enrich my life as much as I could hope to enrich theirs. It’s always worth it to take the risk and reach out to young people. As Garrison Keillor said: “Nothing you do for children is ever wasted. They seem not to notice us, hovering, averting our eyes, and they seldom offer thanks, but what we do for them is never wasted.”

Emily Scribner-O’Pray is the Community Services Supervisor at Teenage Medical Service. Read more about Emily.

Playing with Fire

Don't forget it's still fire

Fourth of July is typically a time of family gatherings and fun-filled outdoor activities to celebrate our nation’s freedom. But for many, celebration can quickly turn to sadness when a child is injured. Hospital emergency departments see an increase in preventable injuries to children over the Fourth of July.

Fireworks are a leading cause of injury during this holiday, and children account for one half of all firework-related injuries.

Why do parents who would normally guard their child from a three-hundred-degree oven hand them a one-thousand-degree sparkler? Is it because parents are so distracted by the beauty of the sparkles that they forget it’s still fire?

Sparklers are responsible for the vast majority of legal firework-related injuries. Parents, you can reduce the risk of injury by following some very basic safety tips:

  • Do not allow children under the age of 12 to use sparklers without very close adult supervision
  • Do not allow children to wave a sparkler
  • Do not allow children to run while holding a sparkler
  • Never light more than one sparkler at a time
  • Drop spent sparklers directly into a bucket of water

I know, it wouldn’t be a Fourth of July celebration without the sights, sounds, and smells of fireworks. But to get the most enjoyment out of this traditional activity, please be safe and protect your children from firework-related injuries.

As you prepare for this holiday I’d like to know what are some precautions you take to keep your kids safe?

Kristi Moline is the Injury Prevention Manager for Trauma Services at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.