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How To Explain a BIG Thunderstorm to Kids

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I was in the PX recently and a mom was doing some shopping with her two kids (one was six and one was eight).  They were talking about the thunderstorm that had blown through the night before and how scared they (including the mom) had been.  We were both doing the go-down-every-aisle thing when I heard the smallest child ask, “Mommy, but I don’t understand why God is angry when there is big thunder.”

Mom looked at the little girl and asked her why she thought God was angry.  The girl replied her friend at school had told her when there is big thunder and lightning, that God is mad and we need to pray.  What I heard next, was possibly the BEST (and truthfully scientific) explanation for how big storms make big noise.

Mom first told both kids that God isn’t angry when there are thunderstorms.  God is really patient and he knows that we do bad stuff sometimes, but wouldn’t send a thunderstorm to hurt us.  She said a thunderstorm is something that happens because of nature, and that, even though they are dangerous sometimes, they still bring rain and rain makes flowers grow.

It took about six aisles to get the entire science down, but it was compelling enough for me to even go down the soda aisle (which I never do).  Here, according to a pretty smart military mom, is how thunderstorms work:

Sometimes, up in the sky, there is a lot of rain that needs to come down.  First, the clouds that have rain in them get really close together.  Then, because they are all close together, they start sharing some of their wind and rain with each other.  The more they share, the stronger they are.  It’s like a blanket.  If you were to pull one tiny string out of the blanket, it wouldn’t be able to cover you at all and it would break.  if you put all the strings together, it makes a strong blanket.  The clouds all group up together and then they start getting stronger because they are sharing all their power.

Sometimes, it just rains.  But other times, like with a big thunderstorm, it has TOO much energy and has to get rid of it.  It’s like when you get too excited and we have to tell you to calm down before you break something.  (both kids nod in agreement . . .and the smaller child says, “like last night when I accidentally hurt the puppy.”).  So, when all that energy is moving around up there in the clouds, it just HAS to do something. . . . so it sends that energy to other clouds or the ground.  That is what lightning is.  It’s energy that just has to go somewhere.  When you have lightning, you have thunder.  Because when lighting goes to the other cloud or to the ground, it makes noise.  Sometimes it isn’t a big noise . . .and sometimes it is a HUGE noise, like the big one that scared us last night.

(We paused here when mom saw a friend.  It was difficult to pretend to not be stalking this cute family, so I put a few rolls of paper towels in my basket, pretending to compare brands).

The next question came at the checkout line.  “Mom, where does the h-ee-double-hockey-sticks come from?”

I couldn’t help but laugh at that, remembering Dillon asking the exact same question in the exact same way when he was much smaller.

Picking up the story again from Mom:

Well, high up in the clouds, with all that rain and energy . . .there is also wind.  The wind keeps things pretty cold, just like when it is really windy and cold outside.  Sometimes it gets so windy and so cold that the rain in the clouds turn to little pieces of ice.  It’s like playing ping pong . . .the ping pong ball keeps going back and forth and back and forth until someone misses and it falls to the ground.  The little pieces of ice get pushed by all that wind, but eventually, they get too heavy and they fall from the clouds and to the ground.  Sometimes, if it is a really big storm with LOTS of energy, the hail is as big as your hand . . but most of the time it is really small.

(At this point, she took the time to explain that hail is not a bad word, even though it sounds like the place where the devil is, it’s not the same word and it is spelled differently).

I was pretty sure the next question was going to be about tornadoes. . .but we were parked too far apart for me to hear that conversation.

Sometimes, explaining how things happen can take the ‘scary’ out of when they happen.  If you have kids (or grand kids) who get really scared during severe weather, take the time to explain how thunderstorms happen in a language they understand.  Removing the mystery will oftentimes remove the fear.

Finally, to the mom who probably felt uncomfortable that a lady followed her around an entire store for 20 minutes, thank you for the lesson.  I spent a total of $38.40 on things I didn’t need, just to hear you be a great mom to two really cute kids!

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