As Americans, celebrating the Fourth of July is a longstanding tradition that not only commemorates our independence as a nation but serves as a signal that summer is, in fact, in full swing. With fireflies gliding through the air and crickets quietly chirping, children wait in anticipation for the festivities to begin. For some children, the holiday is full of family, fun, and excitement; however, what about our tiniest ones? While fireworks are magical, little ears aren’t meant for the great amount of sound pressure that comes with pyrotechnics. The lights, sound, and smells can be overwhelming for a child who is sensitive to overstimulation and an overwhelming sensory experience for neurodivergent children.
How do we, as caregivers, ensure that we are able to keep the children we watch after safe, happy, and fully included in a celebration like our country’s Independence Day, no matter their specific needs?
Newborn – 2 Years Old
Babies and very young children have sensitive ears and eyes and parents and caregivers should carefully consider bringing children to fireworks before making a decision. If you do decide to bring your little ones to the show, ensure you have appropriate ear protection as the decibels increase the risk of harming little ears and hearing. We love the Baby Banz headphones for children 0-2+ and the padding makes for a comfortable fit. It’s also important to liberally apply sunscreen as chances are you will be spending the majority of the day outside in the sun with the family. Make sure you have all of your summer favorites handy for littles – hats, rash guards, sunglasses, water, and for children in strollers we suggest a clip-on fan to help keep them stay cool as a cucumber.
Ages 2 – 10 Years
As children understand the excitement of the day it’s so important to prepare children and discuss expectations as the caregiver, ahead of time. Are there any special rules you may not typically have in your home or with your littles that are a must on the Fourth of July? Do you have rules around the grill/ fire pit that require you to set safety expectations? Will you be celebrating in a crowd or public area that requires your child to stay close or check in regularly? What about a pool in the backyard? Don’t squander the excitement but set clear boundaries and safety expectations to make sure everyone can enjoy the day. Have younger children repeat the rules and check in frequently. Cookouts are so much fun but there are natural safety hazards all around in an environment with family fun in the sun. Make sure everyone has a water bottle, you reapply sunscreen regularly, and you have a designated meeting place in the event someone gets separated from your group. Never leave young children unattended, especially around an open body of water or fire.
Ages 10 Years – Teenage
Teenagehood can often be quantified simply as a desire for independence. Letting go of the reigns is a natural part of trusting our children and letting them grow up. During a holiday like Independence Day, it’s important to discuss clear expectations for rules and behavior with your teens. Are they going to see the fireworks with their friends in the park? Be clear with when you expect them to rejoin you and make sure they have their phone with them. Research shows that nearly 80% of high school kids have tried alcohol. Have an honest conversation with your kids about the dangers of drinking and driving. The Fourth of July historically can be one of the most dangerous holidays of the year for teens. Find more info for celebrating safely with teens here.
It is so important to be inclusive of how we as adults involve our children with neurodiverse needs. Some tips for creating a family-friendly Fourth of July for all children is to consider switching to quieter fireworks rather than loud ones if you and your family set off your own fireworks at home. Have age-appropriate headphones handy for children who are especially sensitive to auditory input. If you typically enjoy fireworks in a communal space, consider finding a location within view but out of acoustic range to minimize overstimulation. If your child is epileptic or has a history of seizures, the light display may trigger a seizure. Make sure you are a safe distance away and make sure you go over the risks with your child’s doctor prior to attending a fireworks display. Walk your child through the agenda of the evening to alleviate stress. Consider preparing your child a few weeks in advance with YouTube videos, stories, and arts and crafts activities to familiarize them with the sounds and sights of the day. Find more information about supporting children with neurodiverse needs and the Fourth of July here. Check out more resources here and here!
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