Former Extension Educator, Family Life
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Monday, June 29, 2015
What are some words that come to mind when you think of the Fourth of July? Food, family, fun…and fireworks. Undoubtedly, this time of year is great for making family memories, but before your celebrations begin, it is important to consider safety around fireworks.
Growing up near Springfield, I have fond childhood memories of attending Lincoln Fest with my family. Held on the grounds of the state capital, it was a wonderful time of playing games, enjoying good food, and being together to celebrate freedom and independence. Until the fireworks started. I have vivid memories of being 6 or 7 years old, standing by myself INSIDE the capital, under the beautiful rotunda, with a blanket on my head while the fireworks raged on outside. (My family kept an eye on me through the capital doors.) For many years, I was terrified of the sights and sounds that many loved. Add in a few times of touching the wrong end of a sparkler and it's safe to say fireworks safety is near and dear to my heart.
In preparing for your celebration, consider the reaction of your child – especially young children. Some children enjoy fireworks and are not scared by the loud noises, bangs, and bright flashes of light. However, other children may find fireworks startling and downright terrifying.
Consider how fireworks "look" to a small child. Balls of fire above his head. LOUD booms. Colorful fire falling from the sky. To a child, this may seem troublesome and scary. Fearing fireworks is normal and there are several steps you can take as a parent to help your child overcome their fear. Some suggestions include:
- Prepare your child. Talk to your child about the fireworks show, explain what they are, prepare her for the noise, and reassure him that they are far away and will not fall on or harm him. You may consider watching movies or YouTube videos of firework displays to help prepare your child. Talk with your child to discern exactly what scares them about the fireworks. If it's the noise, provide him with ear plugs or headphones to lessen the sound. If she dislikes the bright light, let her wear sunglasses.
- Consider your viewing location carefully and have a plan. The closer you sit to view the fireworks, the more terrified your child may be. Additionally, some children may be overwhelmed with the crowds that accompany public firework shows. An overstimulated, anxious child does not make for an enjoyable experience for anyone. It may be beneficial to choose low-key, laid back locations for viewing- which is also helpful if you need to make a quick getaway. You may also consider a viewing location close to an indoor public area like a store or a restaurant to head into if your child becomes scared. It's a good idea to know ahead of time what your plan is should your child have a meltdown.
- Let it go and make a new tradition. If your child remains terrified of fireworks despite your best efforts to acclimate him, let it go! This is a great opportunity to create a new tradition. Perhaps you have a cookout and watch an outdoor movie. Or you do pull-string "poppers" and smoke bombs in the driveway. Or you could make a special trip for ice cream. If you have other children that enjoy fireworks, "adopt a divide and conquer strategy", where one parent or friend takes the enthusiastic children to the show and the other stays home and has a low-key celebration.
Celebrating with fireworks at your home? Thousands of adults and children are treated for firework related burns and injuries across the country each year. The best way to keep your family safe is to not use any fireworks at home. However, if you must and it is legal to do in your area, practicing a few safety tips are crucial to avoid injury. Kidshealth.org recommends some practical ways that your family can be safe around fireworks:
- Never allowing children to "play" with fireworks. Provide adult supervision at all times.
- When using sparklers, keep them outside and teach your child to keep them away from his face, hair, and clothing.
- Always use fireworks outside and have a bucket of water and a hose nearby in case of accidents.
- Never throw or point fireworks at someone.
- Do not hold fireworks in your hand or have any other part of your body over them while lighting.
- Do not carry fireworks in your pocket as the friction could set them off.
- Point fireworks away from homes, brush, leaves, and flammable substances.
- Fireworks should be lit one at a time.
- Soak all fireworks in a bucket of water before throwing them in the trash can.
Finally, if you have pets, consider their reaction to fireworks. This time of year can be extremely stressful to pets due to their sensitive ears. It's a good idea to keep them indoors to reduce the chance that they will run loose or become injured.
However you choose to celebrate America this Fourth of July – with or without fireworks – make it safe and special. Your child is sure to have happy memories of the Fourth for years to come!
What are some special ways you celebrate the Fourth of July? Leave a comment!