Am I Ruining My Kid?

A Frightened Child

How one mom is helping her son overcome the fear of thunderstorms

Photograph by Getty Images/Purestock

Last week I took my 5-year-old to see a therapist.

I had thought he’d have at least until his twenties before requiring mental health services, and that it would be a result of my lackluster parenting.

But apparently when it comes to anxiety, he’s an overachiever.

He’s always been a little anxious, the one child who hates amusement parks, preferring Skee-Ball over even the slowest kiddie rides. He loathes every single part of bedtime, insisting that I leave the lights on until he falls asleep while he clutches his security blanket that he treats like an actual person.

And I’d worry that hell was about to freeze over if he didn’t cry at school drop-off.

To us, that just meant he was a little anxious, something that we'd seen in lots of kids, none of whom required therapy. So we’d oblige his 400 repeat questions, his request for four night-lights, and his desire to stand on the sidelines while his sisters enjoyed another ride on the Ferris wheel.

But then he started refusing to go outside, staring at the clouds in the sky. And we knew something was wrong.

I still remember the exact point in time that he started to be afraid of the weather, an innocent trip to a local bible school with our sitter that ended in complete terror of thunderstorms. Apparently the power went out due to a heavy storm, and that combined with the tornado siren sent him completely over the edge.

We didn’t think too much about it when he arrived home, happily nursing a gigantic ice cream cone, our babysitter’s smart attempt to lighten the frightful evening.

But when he started to go into a completely irrational panic with any sort of thunderstorm, we realized that this was a big problem.

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