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Overcoming a Phobia
Q: My 13-year-old daughter has been afraid of thunderstorms for many years. She will cry, scream, and throw a fit if she can't sleep in her brother or sister's room whenever there's a storm. I also won't let her sleep in our bed just because she's scared. She sleeps on the main floor of the house alone, while the rest of us are upstairs. She was up for 3 hours last night screaming and crying because she thought there was going to be a storm. What can I do?
A: After years of dealing with this fear it's time to get some help for your daughter. Crying for three hours when she thinks there may be a storm is a good indication that this is a major problem for your daughter.
Talk with the school counselor. He may be able to give your daughter some individual time or include her in a small group. You'll probably want to seek additional help for your daughter outside the school, and the counselor or your pediatrician can refer you to a therapist in your community.
You may also want to consider switching bedroom arrangements. You're wise not to let your daughter get into bed with you. You might be able, however, to switch bedrooms and let your other daughter, your son, or even you and your husband move to the bedroom on the ground floor. Since this is a tremendous issue for her, it doesn't make sense to continue to have your daughter sleeping on the main floor by herself. This fear of storms may simply be her way of telling you she's frightened to sleep there.
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Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.