Surviving the Fireworks with Your Sensitive Child

5 Things You Can Do to Avoid Meltdowns And Enjoy The Show!

Happy 4th of July!

If you have a child who is sensitive to loud noises, you may be looking forward to the Fourth of July fireworks with a mixture of anticipation and trepidation!

Think about yourself being startled by a loud noise.  Your brain immediately goes on high alert.  Survival mode kicks in until you can determine, “What was it?  Where was it?  Am I safe?”

We get startled or frightened by things that are unexpected and that we don’t understand.    Children with auditory sensitivity and auditory processing challenges may not be able to quickly identify what they’re hearing, where it is, and if they are safe, kicking them into fight or flight – translation:  running, hiding, screaming, meltdowns, or terror.

Here are 5 things you can do to help your child weather and maybe even enjoy the fireworks.

#1 Prepare

Take away the startle factor by preparing your child over and over throughout the day about the really cool thing that they get to see when it gets dark. 

#2 Understand

Explain to your child about how fireworks work.  Talk about how the firework gets shot into the sky from a special machine and once it gets really, really high in the sky, it explodes into sparkles and light.  The really load noise they hear is the explosion.  Look at YouTube videos to hear the sound and see what it looks like.

#3 Practice

Pretend to be shooting off a firework.  Show the trajectory, reaching up high. Make an explosion sound and use your hands and fingers to be the light exploding and sparkling.

Have your child mimic your demonstration for you and others.  If you have a dog that is frightened by fireworks, have your child share with the dog how fireworks work and tell the dog it doesn’t have to be afraid.  The more your child practices and dialogues about fireworks, the more she patterns in a new, calmer response to them.

#4 Settle

If your Fourth of July is going to be a busy, stimulating day with family and friends, take 20 or 30 minutes before dark to sit with your child in a calm, quiet space.  Read a story, hum, or talk or sit quietly – in other words, take some time to chill and settle.  Let your child sit on your lap with your arms wrapped around him or give him some nice, grounding pressure with a weighted blanket or stroking his back, arms, or legs firmly. 

Note:  Prepare your child in advance that you are going to take this settling time together so it’s not a surprise. 

#5 Wear headphones

Put ear muffs or over-the-ear headphones (preferably noise-cancelling) on your child for the duration of the fireworks.

Here’s to a happy Fourth of July and fireworks without meltdowns!




Jill Stowell, M.S.

Founder and Executive Director, Stowell Learning Centers

#1 Bestselling Author:  At Wit’s End A Parent’s Guide to Ending the Struggle, Tears, and Turmoil of Learning Disabilities

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