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  • Writer's pictureAnnika Brindley

How to Help Your Toddler & Baby Sleep During a Thunderstorm

Before Reading tips on how to help your toddler and baby sleep during a thunderstorm, let's review some facts about thunderstorms and lightning.

Lightning comes first before thunder. Yes, we all learned about this in science class, but some may need a little refresher on the subject!

Light travels faster than sound, so when you see a flash of lightning, it instantly reaches your eyes. However, the sound of thunder is produced by the rapid air expansion due to the lightning bolt's intense heat. Since sound travels slower than light, it takes some time for the sound waves to reach your ears, causing a delay between seeing the lightning and hearing the thunder. By counting the seconds between the lightning flash and the sound of thunder, you can estimate how far away the lightning struck.

Tips for Toddlers

A thunderstorm's science and concrete facts are often helpful for your toddler. One of the best ways to explain thunder and lightning to your toddler is by reading an age-appropriate book on weather and storms like this one.

If you choose to read a book on thunderstorms, it is best not to do it before bedtime and read it during the day to provide a lot of time to answer your curious toddler's questions.

The tips I suggest may feel counterintuitive to you as a parent. Still, it is essential to recognize how we can often unintentionally add to our children's fear. If your toddler is afraid or woken up by the loud noise of thunder, go to them to support them but stay away from phrases like "Your safe" or "Nothing can hurt you." Try not to ask probing questions like "Are you scared?"

A more effective way to support your child is to go into their room and help them by sitting on the side of their bed, giving a big hug and squeeze, and REPLACE their negative and fearful thought with a positive one; for example, try saying, "I'm here; everything is O.K. You are O.K. I love you so much."

You would be surprised how much more effective and less triggering it is to hear "Your O.K" and not "There's nothing to be afraid of." "You are O.K." is reassuring and positive -mentioning fear will make your child focus on fear and feel that there is something to fear.

If your toddler needs a bit more, tell them you love them, they are O.K., and then tell them a story about when they were a baby as you are tucking them back into bed. I have yet to meet a child who does not feel loved and safe when hearing a story about themselves as a baby.

So, when your toddler wakes up during a thunderstorm from a loud noise of the thunder or the rain or sees a flash of light, you can:

  1. Provide reassurance: Comfort and reassure your child that they are "I'm here; everything is O.K. you are O.K. I love you so much."

  2. Turn the white noise up to drown out the sound of the storm.

  3. Use blackout curtains: Install blackout curtains to block out lightning flashes and reduce the storm's visual impact.

  4. Offer a comfort item: Let your child have a favorite stuffed animal or blanket. "Let's pick another special friend you can sleep with."

  5. Be present: If your child is anxious during the storm, stay with them briefly. Your presence can be reassuring.

  6. If the storm is during bedtime, you can distract with a bedtime story: Reading a calming bedtime story can distract your child from the storm and help them relax.

  7. Stay calm: Children often look to their parents for cues on how to react to situations. If you remain calm and relaxed, it can help your child feel safer and more secure.

  8. Prepare in advance: Before the storm, discuss thunderstorms with your child and teach them what to expect; this can help reduce fear and anxiety.

Remember that every child is different; what works for one child may not work for another. Be patient and understanding, and adjust your approach based on your child's needs and reactions during the thunderstorm. Being present and replacing the negative with a positive perspective will go a long way.

Tips for Babies:

Comforting a baby who wakes up from a thunderstorm can be a soothing and supportive experience. Here are some steps you can follow to help your baby calm down and feel safe:

  1. Remember that they were woken up from their sleep by noise, not conceptual fear.

  2. Stay calm yourself: Babies can sense their caregiver's emotions, so it's essential to remain calm and composed during a thunderstorm. Your reassuring presence can help the baby feel secure.

  3. Create a safe environment: Ensure the baby's sleep space is safe and comfortable. Check that no hazards are nearby and that the crib or bed is free from potential dangers.

  4. Do not put metal cribs by the window.

  5. Offer physical comfort: Pick up your baby gently and hold them close. Physical touch and closeness can be incredibly comforting to a baby who is feeling scared.

  6. Use a soothing voice: Speak to your baby softly and comfortably. Your voice can be a source of reassurance and help them feel safe.

  7. Provide a familiar object: If your baby has a favorite blanket or stuffed animal, offer it to them if they are of the proper age, according to the AAP. A love object can provide comfort and a sense of security.

  8. Make sure you have blackout shades to avoid the bright flashes of light from the lightning.

  9. White noise can help drown out the sound of the storm and provide a soothing background sound.

  10. Stay with your baby: Sometimes, all a baby needs is your comforting presence. Stay with them until they feel more at ease and can settle themselves back to sleep.

Support your baby's needs during this time, but avoid getting too derailed from the regular sleep routine. Stay positive and calm, and they can continue to be the resilient Little Sleepers you have taught them to be.


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