I remember as a kid we had a crazy dog. The 4th of July was always disaster with him. Whatever happened to him before he became ours, I’ll never know. We lived about 5 miles from the fireworks, at the time. There were years when we left him in the yard while we drove to find a picnic spot to watch the fireworks. We would come home to a hole chewed in the fence, and an angry neighbor’s message on the answering machine, claiming he was tearing up their Gladiolus. The years we left him locked in the house, we would come home to him shivering in the bathtub with a corner of the wall itself chewed out. This dog had issues.
But he exemplified how the fireworks of the 4th of July could affect a smaller animal – or human – who doesn’t understand what’s going on. To this end, I give you a few tips for you and your tiny humans this 4th of July.
- Babies – Lower your expectations way, way down. Then adjust them a few more clicks. There were years when I didn’t even see fireworks. I only heard faint booms from my nursing chair in the baby’s room. For me, sleep and nursing schedules trumped explosions in the sky, hands down. In those little years, a well-timed nap was more precious than diamonds.
- Toddlers – Emphasize to your little person that they are safe. Formerly rambunctious toddlers will huddle deep into Mama’s neck when they think that they are under fire. I’ve never met a tiny person who wasn’t inherently gun-shy. Wrap them in a blanket, and hold them close.
- Toddlers – Do not shame them about feeling afraid of the whole ordeal. Their feelings are their own, and are perfectly valid. Shaming a child by telling them how they “shouldn’t be afraid,” or that they are just being “silly” because fireworks can’t hurt them, doesn’t work. It does nothing to bolster their spirits, and everything to separate and distance yourself from them emotionally. Who wants to snuggle into someone who is berating them?
- Toddlers/Kids – Lead them into excitement about the sights and sounds of fireworks by showing your own excitement. Let them see the big smile on your face and follow your pointing finger to the colorful lights in the sky. It really is quite beautiful.
- Kids – If your child is old enough to play with bang snaps and sparklers, loosen up and let him. Have the garden hose nearby, keep a watchful eye on things, but let him play. He will feel proud of himself for overcoming his fears, and thrilled at the experience. Playing with fireworks produces more of a well-rounded human who can handle loud, bright, explosive things without panicking. If you let him partake in this fun, he will go from being markedly distrustful and afraid, to a braver and more resilient person.
I hope you enjoy your fireworks this 4th of July with your kiddos, in whatever season of motherhood it finds you.