Saturday, 3 December 2011

Not A Storm in a Teacup

Since Flash was a toddler she has been frightened of the wind. She was scared of the way the wind feels and the way it makes things move. Trees and leaves swaying in the wind, clothes flapping on the line would reduce her to shaking, tears and pleas to go inside…and a sudden and urgent need to go to the toilet. Together with her language difficulties (apraxia) this stage was very difficult and frustrating as a parent, to understand and manage.

Now she is 8, she has thankfully mostly outgrown this fear. That was until Christmas last year, when a succession of storm fronts hit our suburb. On this night the rain and hail was so heavy the house flooded. Water seemed to build up along the side of the house from neighbours and poured into the house through the ventilation holes, under the doors and through the roof.

As this was happening the whole family frantically began moving items and using towels to try and stem the relentless flow of water into the main bedroom, the girls bedroom and the toy room. The carpets were ruined and needed to be replaced. The girls lost books and some toys. These were all covered by insurance and although inconvenient (and took a extremely long time to fix….) the damage has only been minor. Although none of us will ever forget the smell of wet and mouldy carpet, and the constant noise and humidity of the drying fans!

Through this process, I hadn’t stopped to think about the emotional consequences this was having on the kids (Flash in particular). GrumpyDaddy, who doesn’t normally handle stress well was mostly calm and rational through the event and I thought that it was all over. That is until the next storm….

In a instance of poor timing, Christmas was spent  on the NSW far North Coast. Right at the time of the Brisbane floods and the flash flooding that devastated the towns of Grantham and Toowoomba. Although we were not directly effected by the flooding, we were geographically quite close and Flash ended up seeing some of the horrific footage on the TV. One of the cars that was repeatedly shown carried away by the torrent of water was similar to our car. Many people, including children lost their lives that day. The horror they must have experienced is unimaginable. I know that there are many, many people way worse off than us….and have much more reason to be frightened of storms than Flash.

Flood waters rising in my home town

Now, when the clouds cover the sun and the wind begins to blow, you will most certainly find Flash in front of the computer screen staring at the bureau of meteorology web site rain radar ( Even if it is 4am! When the rain starts she is visibly terrified. It is a visceral fear. She shakes uncontrollably, her heat rate is rapid, her voice is shaky high-pitched and panicky and she cries. The poor thing almost always ends up back on the toilet. Because she is so upset the children seemed to have learnt to be scared of the storms as well. I also dread storms now, and can’t wait for them to be over because I hate seeing her so upset and I just can’t seem to comfort her.

All the strategies I have used so far have had no effect. She tries to get me to promise that it will never happen again, but I’m not sure I can do this. What if it does? She will never believe me again.  I try and remind her that we are all OK and the house is back to normal. However, she knows full well that others were not so lucky and she is terrified it could happen to us. GrumpyDaddy thinks she is just carrying on…a storm in a teacup…. but I know that it is a real fear for her.

When GrunpyDaddy was recently away on a work jaunt conference, a succession of storms hit Canberra over night. Flash was again frantic and we all did not sleep for most of the night. The storm season has just started in Australia and I think it’s going to feel like a very long summer! Even rain is enough to cause her to panic. Gone are the days when I could lie in bed listening to the peaceful sound of the rain on the roof. I feel bad for Flash that she is so terrified and may always associate rain and storms with this terror.

I’d love to know if anyone as any suggestions about how I could help the kids, particularly Flash, try and manage or overcome these fears.

Indecently, When GrumpyDaddy arrived home the next night, I told him about the storms. He could see that we were all tired and exhausted. He then announced  “…I’ts time for bed now.  I know that mummy likes to keep you awake all night….” This statement defiantly did cause a storm in a teacup!!

1 comment:

  1. That's a hard one. Floods and storms can be very traumatic, we have had three near floods in the last few years, the January ones being the most traumatic (for me) in many ways. All the other floods around and TV footage certainly adds to the sense of helplessness and fear.