Fireworks at any time of the year can be both amazing and scary for a kid of any age. Add in the excitement and exhaustion of 4th of July festivities and it’s no wonder why a lot of kids have a hard time handling the booms, bangs and whizzes. But how can you help a hesitant (or downright scared) child to relax and enjoy the fireworks?
First, talk to your kids and ask what is it about the fireworks that they don’t like. You might learn it’s just the noise that bothers them, and in that case get some heavy duty ear plugs and show them how cool they are with those on. It will lessen the effect and make the noise easier to handle.
If there’s more to it than just the fear of the noise, here are some ideas to try out…
- Play at getting familiar with the experience. One evening before the big fireworks show, practice by making a game of going outside, you flashing a flashlight at the sky and they get to hit two pots together (just once), so they are in control of the noise at first. Do it again. And again. Then let them do the light and you hit the pots. Do everything in the same order that they will experience the fireworks. Perhaps try this over the course of several days, each time doing it when it’s darker outside so they can get used to the darkness.
- Watch firework videos on Youtube to get the child into it. Here’s a great one from the Disney World 2013 4th of July. While you watch, explain to your child what’s happening and how the fireworks actually work. Talk about how they are set off and why they will see the light before they will hear the boom (light travels faster than sound). If you explain the logistics of the show, this might make it seem less scary,
- The farther back you are from the fireworks, the better. Choose a spot that’s far enough away from the crowd that you don’t have that added noise and you can make a quick getaway if someone freaks out.
- Watch them from the car or from inside the house (if you have a good view). The safety of the car is a great way to lessen the impact of the noise and lights.
- If the bright lights of the fireworks are the problem, have the child wear sunglasses while watching.
- As stated before, earplugs are a great way to soften the experience.
- Offer your lap for the child to sit in for security.
- Bring your child’s special lovie, a stuffed animal, or a blanket that makes them feel safe at home.
- Do a trial run of some low-key (and legal) fireworks in your backyard. Try some sparklers to start. Show the kids how beautiful the sparkler is and how to hold it safely. Then work your way up to some black cats and other minor firecrackers. Set them off further away from the kids so they feel safe, and let them come a little closer when they are feeling more brave. Just make sure to outline the rules that only adults are allowed to set them off and they need to keep a safe distance from all firecrackers.
Sometimes you can try everything and your child is still afraid, and that’s OK. A lot of the time the fear just goes away with age, so don’t push your child and tell them to “suck it up” — doing that could make the fear even worse. If you know ahead of time that taking a frightened child to a fireworks show with no escape plan might be bad idea, then listen to that gut feeling and make special arrangements. If a large group is going, why not take a separate car so you have a quick getaway if a child needs to leave? Or maybe just keep the scared child with you alone and let the group go on to the show without you. This would be a great opportunity to watch the show from a distance in the car with the scared child. Or hey, why not take them out for a special ice cream treat while the rest of town is out at the fireworks? Hey, no waiting in line!
Whatever you choose to do, try to make it a fun experience and a nice end to the exciting day. The Fourth of July is a time for celebrating our amazing country and having quality family time. Make it a special day — with or without fireworks — and your kids will be sure to have happy memories for years to come.