My youngest child has always been terrified by thunderstorms. She peppers us with questions about how close the county or town is when a warning comes on TV. If we have to take shelter, she is literally petrified to tears. I think she may have had a breakthrough, however, during the last bad storm…we’ll see if it lasts.
Her sister needed dropped off at a school function just as a recent storm began moving through. Even I didn’t like the looks of the clouds, but radar showed only a thin line which would pass quickly, so into the car we went. She was so scared she was in tears and wouldn’t speak. But she loves science and knowing how things work, so after we safely deposited her sister, I began explaining the science behind the rain and lightning which, at that moment, were pretty spectacular. Pretty quickly, her curiosity began to overtake her fear, and she began to ask probing questions where my initial explanations fell short. Soon she was actually admiring particularly cool lightning streaks. By the time we arrived home, she was as chatty as only a 5th-grade girl can be.
I wish I could say I had brilliantly planned this strategy, but it was a reactionary instinct. As I thought about it afterward, it makes sense: generally the only way we overcome our fears is to face them. This was the first time she’d really been out in a storm, as well as the first time it had been explained as a necessary part of nature. In hindsight, of course it worked.
The lesson was a good reminder. As I think back, I’ve only experienced real personal growth when I’ve moved outside of my comfort zone. I hope the lesson sticks with my daughter–I hate seeing her that scared. If it does, we’ll use it as a teaching moment, to help her see how to face her fears. I fear that is a skill she will need.
“We fear things in proportion to our ignorance of them.” –Christian Nestell Bovee