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Kids or Pets Afraid of Fireworks? Here's Some Calming Advice

Thursday, June 24, 2021 11:12 AM

Fourth of July weekend is all about celebrating Independence Day with delicious barbecues and of course, fireworks. There’s no doubt you’ll be hearing the thunderous “booms” and crackling sounds of firecrackers around your neighborhood before, during and after the holiday.  

Even though fireworks are quite the spectacle and draw large crowds, not everyone may feel comfortable. For young children or pets, the loud noises of fireworks can cause sensory overload and confusion. They can also cause anxiety, panic attacks, and fear. 

4th of July Fireworks

To help children understand fireworks and take the fear out of the activity, Jennifer Schott, MDPediatrician at NorthShore, shares tips you can use to help kids cope with the stress:

  1. Leave little ones at home. For children under five, fireworks can cause unnecessary stress. It may be best to stay at home with them and watch a movie instead.
  2. Explain in detail beforehand. Just like adults, when kids know what they can expect, they are less anxious. Watch a couple of videos online to follow patterns to help with understanding.
  3. Keep it anxious-free. If you are anxious about fireworks yourself, ask your spouse or another trusting adult to take your children. Calmness is contagious and if you’re anxious, they will be too.
  4. Have a backup plan. Pick a spot near the exit so if the event doesn’t go as planned, then you and your children can pack up and leave quickly.
  5. Pick a family-friendly spot. Seeing other kids enjoying the show may help your child realize that there is no immediate danger and can be enjoyable.
  6. Bring back-up. Bring their favorite blanket or toy to help them adjust. Consider earplugs or noise-canceling headphones if the noise is upsetting but they want to watch the show.
  7. Don’t force it. Walkthrough the steps of what’s going on for the first few fireworks. If your children do not enjoy them, that’s okay. They may learn to love them later in life, and in the meantime, you can plan different activities as a family.

Have a stressed-out pet? 

  1. Walk them during daylight hours to avoid the fireworks in the evening.
  2. Close the windows and curtains to muffle the sounds of fireworks.
  3. Put on ambient sounds. Try white noise, music, or the TV to mask the noise outside. 
  4. Create a quiet “safe place” where your pet can feel in control.
  5. Try desensitizing your dog. Simply play the sounds of fireworks (softly) in the background so they get used to hearing them. Then, pair the sounds with a treat your dog likes.
  6. Comfort your dog – long, slow firm strokes along the length of their body.
  7. Avoid seeming frantic in any way. This tends to keep your companion calmer.
  8. Consider talking to your veterinarian about medication to soothe their anxiety.