“In the past month, my 4-year-old daughter has developed a severe fear of rain after a terrible fright with thunder and lightning when she was younger. She won’t even go outside because she’s afraid it will rain. My husband and I went away together recently – is this also affecting her? Or is she being manipulative and trying to “assert” herself with me?”
Fear and anxiety are not psychological problems in and of themselves. Fear is a logical response to a real threat. Fear is a subconscious reaction to any perceived threat, a mechanism without which the species would not survive. To add to this instinctive response, we all develop further fears which come through experience. A fear only becomes a psychological problem when the response to it is no longer logical or reasonable.
For example: when you go to bed, you lock your door, your security gate and switch on the alarm. You aren’t being unreasonable, you’re responding to the very real threat of a potential house-breaking. This is normal.
However, if when you go to bed you lock up, arm the alarm and then get up repeatedly to make sure that you locked the door, then your response is no longer normal and logical - you have become neurotic.
We teach our children to be fearful of threats; the child who does not fear traffic will run blindly onto the road for instance. As children mix socially they learn about all types of fears: fears of goblins and ghosts, the dark, strangers and thunder and lightning to name a few. This is perfectly normal child development.
I don’t think your daughter’s fear of rain is meant to be manipulative or that she is seeking merely to assert herself. She has developed a neurotic response - her fear of rain is illogical and not normal behaviour for a 4-year-old. I would suggest that you take her to an experienced play therapist for a few sessions, where with the appropriate intervention she will be able to overcome this fear.
The fact that you were away on holiday without her recently could have exacerbated the problem. You and her father need to continue giving her love and empathy in order to help her deal with the situation.