Boom! Pow! Helping Kids With A Fear of Fireworks
They light up the night, and they are as American as apple pie and a Sousa march. "Booms" and "Pows" truly have been a part of Americana since Francis Scott Key wrote of the rockets red glare and bomb bursting in air during the War of 1812. Key penned poetry about actual bombs, and what we have today in our epic Independence Day displays are no less ear-rattling in their size and scope no matter how controlled their engineers.
It's not too far of a stretch then to think that young children especially may be a bit frightened of the frenetic sounds and lights that accompany our yearly celebration of Independence. How do we as parents help our kids tolerate and maybe even come to enjoy the display of pyrotechnics? Below we've listed 5 ways to help those kiddos out a bit this year and going forward. Have any other advice? Let us know on our Facebook page!
Have a Chat
It's not a strange occurrence to have your child be just fine with fireworks attendance one year then totally skittish about it the next. Most kids go through the phases as they grow from 0-5 years. If your child is able to speak, try to get them to open up about not only what scares them but also why. If they don't speak quit, try making observances as to what could be triggering the response. Is it the noise, the suddenness of the sounds and light, being out in the dark? Knowing these concerns is key to helping them because while you may think it's the sound, they may have developed a real fear of the dark, and well firework displays tend to happen once the sun goes down. So asking non-yes/no questions get a feel for what's at play for your child. Their answers may surprise you.
Fears are funny yet very tangible things to kids. It is more often than not a shared occurrence that all of us adults at one time seemed to have an irrational fear as young children, that at the time felt incredibly real and yes, threatening. Try not to downplay the fear, but help them be prepared to face it. Letting them know you are in their corner will go a long way to them feeling like they can confide how they feel to you about this fear. If you've established what it is that is really scaring them: noise, lights, dark, crowds etc. you can help them prepare.
In Southeastern Wyoming we are no strangers to ear wear or coverings when we go to the range for some target practice. That same ear wear can be used by your kiddos to dim the noise at the many extravaganzas you attend as a family. The ear coverings used for gun range practice allow your kids to view and see the fireworks but minimize the exacerbated BOOMS! that could cause them to startle. They can also still hear your voice though due to the fact that most range ear muffs don't totally remove all sound or noise, simply dim it.
Being afraid of the dark is a very common occurrence for children. Provide them with a glow stick, special flashlight that is theirs, or some type of ambient light source that will help comfort them but not distract others sitting around you. Staying close by, or even holding them throughout will also help them relax a bit, with the palpable feeling of their parent being close at hand.
If your little gizmo is put off by the triggers of sudden bursts of light, you may have to help them warm up a bit by watching fireworks on television or even YouTube. Another idea is going to personal backyard celebrations that are smaller in scale and working up to the larger community sized extravaganzas after a few years. Another idea? Sunglasses to dim the brightness a bit but still will allow your kiddo to enjoy the celebration!
Separation anxiety in large crowds is a tangible fear shared by many children. That being said many children will face some anxiety when experiencing large crowds and may not know how to process this many people crammed into a space. Try to find a low-key spot with an easy access to getting to your vehicle or to a standing building like a store or other establishment. Staying out from the center of the action with something as visual as a firework attraction is pretty easy and shouldn't dim your enjoyment overall.
Have a Game Plan
If your kiddo is okay with trying to attend the firework display, devise a quick method where they can tell you they are becoming overwhelmed no matter how loud it may be. It could be as simple as three squeezes on your hand, or even a tug on your arm and a loud "I'm ready to go now!"
Another very important strategy: have support. This is crucial if you have more than one kid with you, so if your spouse is okay staying with your other child or children while you walk the other to the back great. Another idea is to have a friend or family member come along. Either way, make sure you have some back up to help as in crowds and dark it can become a little more than disorienting to navigate care of a child having a meltdown and tending to your other kiddos. Since so many people are gathered usually in a small place remember it won't be a simple extraction to get your vehicle on the road and out of the viewing area. Always factor in that travel time as well if your child needs to go or has started to meltdown.
Be Okay In The Not Knowing
As a parent of a toddler, it can feel a little dismaying to have to miss out on the fun stuff like fireworks. But being okay with sitting this one out is way more important than watching those rockets red glare. Retreating back to the car, or the house as the case may be should always be an option if your child is truly becoming overwhelmed. You are their parent so you know your child. You know the difference between "They can make it, they're good," to "We NEED to get out of here NOW!" Keep that barometer well in hand and monitor how they are doing throughout the entire display.
Have a Back-Up Plan
As we parents know, the best defense is a good offense. Be prepared if at all possible with some alternative fun at home. Maybe play some music, light sparklers or smoke bombs, and/or even use those pull string poppers indoors. Playing it by ear and having a good back up if your child has shown considerable fear will go a long way to providing a salvo to the situation and also give you some great memories too!