Overcoming Fear of Tornados, Purdue Experts Explain

By Kevin Kitt

Overcoming Fear of Tornados, Purdue Experts Explain

May 22, 2013 Updated May 22, 2013 at 12:02 PM EDT

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (www.incnow.tv) - The tornado that hit the Oklahoma City area on Monday may be especially frightening for children because of the destruction to schools and the number of children who died, says a Purdue University child development expert.

"Children should be reassured that this was a very unusual storm and adults can tell them that most won't be like this, and we, as a family or class, will do everything we can to stay safe and be there for each other," says Judith Myers-Walls, professor emeritus of child development. "Children are limited in their ability to understand causality and probability, so it's likely their fears will be raised by news stories of this event.

Professionals say that playing a game or doing something as a family is a very effective way to take a child's mind off the storm. Adults should also act like the storm is a good thing. When children see that their parent(s) or guardians aren't afraid, it enstills a sense of confidence in them.

"Try your best to normalize tornado warnings, and it will help younger children not to panic when it is necessary to move to the shelter - either as practice or in a real emergency," Myers-Walls says. "But, parents know their child best, and while some may need to be reassured, others will need to be reminded of the potential danger and to take the warnings seriously."

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