If I had to pick a favorite holiday, it would be July 4th!  It's basically a perfect day - especially growing up.  We'd have friends over and we'd load up in our trucks with blankets and lawn chairs and sit in the back of the beds as we stared up at the sky.

The 4th of July is not a perfect day for everyone though and in my family, we have learned that having a child with anxiety...that big, beautiful show in the sky is just a bit too much for him.

I was asked earlier today why fireworks trigger anxiety and fear in my kid and that is a hard question to answer...mostly because I’m not the one experiencing it.  I do know what I see as a mom and have a few tips to share with other parents that might have a child that isn’t a fan of fireworks.

What anxiety looks like for my child on the 4th of July:

  • Asking questions - this is a tough one to notice since kids ask questions All.The.Time!  But, for my own kiddo, the same question tends to get asked repeatedly but sometimes in just a slightly different way (and can show up a few weeks ahead of the actual event).  Example - “Are we going to the fireworks tonight?”. “Where are we sitting at the fireworks?”. “Are we going to stay for all of the fireworks?”
  • Asks if another activity can be done instead - This is a normal one in my house and typically looks like, “Mom, can I read a book on my tablet during the fireworks?”.  Basically, this is just something that he’d rather used to distract himself from what his trigger is - in this case, fireworks.
  • Crouch in his chair and cry - The last few years, I’ve been watching the show in the sky and didn’t realize that my child was suffering just a few lawn chairs away from me.  He used to appear to be ok for most of the show until the last few minutes where the continuous loud noises and flashes were just too overwhelming.  By the end of the show, he would be shivering and curled up in a ball in his lawn chair and was frozen, he didn’t want to talk to anyone or do anything.
Jessica W. - Rochester TSM

Ways to help kids with anxiety have a fun July 4th!  These are all trial and error in our house...and I’ve tried a lot of other things too...but this is what has been semi-working in our house and a few that we are trying this year that I think will just be another added bonus for our kiddo.

  • Watch the show a little bit farther away than the big crowd.  We’ve tried the smaller towns, the big show in Rochester down at Silver Lake...but so far, every single experience has not been ideal.  We have just been too close to the noise and large groups of people. We are going to be out of the big crowds this time and watching from a distance this year.  We will still see the show in the sky but the sound and brightness will be toned down a bit. Some ideas and locations in Rochester are Kellogg Middle School, Rec Center on Broadway, Mayo NE clinic parking lot, or some of the parking ramps in downtown Rochester.
  • Watch the show from inside the car - Park where you can see the show but watch from inside the vehicle.  The walls of the car will add another layer where the sound can be diminished just a tad and if needed, you can turn the radio on!
  • Noise canceling headphones - This will eliminate pretty much any sound for our kiddo.  We haven’t tried it yet but have it on our list for this year.
  • Sunglasses - it might be dark outside but this helps take the edge off of those bright flashes that seem a bit too scary.  Plus, kids look pretty cool when they are wearing their shades!
  • Audiobook - my kid loves to read and also loves audio books.  He’s got a tablet, an app to download books from the Rochester Public Library and headphones.  He also uses this as a tool for other moments when he feels anxiety starting to build up so it is one he is comfortable with already.
  • Journal - this is a hard one to do after it gets dark out but throughout the day, our kiddo can write down his feelings and thoughts as he starts to feel those anxious moments.
  • Mom -  I’m sortof the go-to when it comes to the moments where he just needs to have a hug.  Sometimes that hug lasts 4 hours and sometimes it is just a brief one until he says he is ok.  That reassurance from someone and an extra hug can provide miracles in many ways for a kid with anxiety.

What other tips do you have?  I’d love to have you share those with me on my Facebook page: @JessicaWilliamsontheRadio

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