I had an awful fear of tornadoes as a child. It started when I was around 6, and continued for about a decade.
I believe this may have been an actual phobia.
- Thunder storms gave me anxiety
- Hail or sleet storms frightened me so much that I couldn't focus on anything else
- I was told by my mother once, around the time the phobia started, that tornadoes sounded like trains. From then on I had terrible anxiety whenever I heard trains (even the horns!) and couldn't see them that it often kept me awake or woke me up in terror. This was awful because I always lived near enough to active tracks for it to be a daily problem.
- When I first saw the movie Twister it pretty much ruined my summer, as I was hypersensitive to foul weather afterwards. After that I could only watch it in the winter, when tornadoes don't occur.
Eventually I grew out of it, in a way. But it took quite a while for me to train my body to stop responding to train horns at night with fear responses, even though I logically knew there was no connection to the horn and tornadoes.
I did tell my mother about this fear a few times over the years, but she didn't really know what to do about it (or maybe understand the severity).
So, I ask, what could a parent do to help a child with a long-standing irrational fear of bad weather?
I ask specifically about weather, and not general phobias, because I think there is a real threat of weather that acts as a rational basis for the irrational aspects. Not all phobias are grounded in things that have tangible, realistic threats. (I grew up in Tornado Valley, and have been through some very bad tornado weather. The earliest occurence I can remember was terrifying for me and the cause of my phobia).
Although I understand counseling would likely be appropriate, I'd prefer a response dealing with what a parent can actively do in the home, between and during storm episodes.