Bonfire Night – Managing your child’s anxiety.
Top Tips for Managing Bonfire Night
For lots of families with children, Bonfire Night can bring anxiety and distress. Firework displays are noisy, unpredictable and, depending on where you live, can be relentless. This can be particularly tricky if you have a child who has a fear of fireworks, is neurodiverse, and/or has sensory differences.
Our team of child and young people therapists, in collaboration with families we work with, have put together some top tips for managing the Bonfire Celebrations.
- Don’t be afraid to give it a miss
If going to fireworks displays isn’t right for your family, trust your instincts. You can create your own traditions for Bonfire night. Perhaps you could watch a movie or do another favourite activity that will help distract from the noise outside. Maybe there is a playlist of music that is particularly calming for your child.
Explain to your child about the origin of Bonfire night, and safety around fireworks and bonfires. For some children, their anxiety is due to being worried about getting hurt or not understanding what is happening. There are lots of story books or information leaflets available that can support you to explain this in a child friendly way. For example; your local fire and rescue service website. Some people like to watch YouTube videos of firework displays to help prepare their child for what is going to happen. If you have a pet, consider including your child in helping the animal for Bonfire night. This could provide a great good opportunity to open conversations about anxiety or fear in a non-direct way and validate their experience.
- Create a plan
Staying in or going out, involve your child/ren in creating a plan for the evening, encourage them to think about what they might be worried about, and what might help support them. If you are going to an event, try to find out as much information beforehand as possible to help inform your plan and consider in advance what your exit plan might be if things get too overwhelming.
Writing your plan out or use of a visual schedule is really helpful to help manage expectations and hopefully reduce anxiety.
- Incorporate the familiar and comforting items
Regardless of your plans, considering bringing objects that your child finds soothing, familiar or reduces anxiety. For example, certain items of clothing, weighted blankets, fidget toys or a comfort blanket can be helpful. Sometimes certain foods or drinks might bring a bit of extra comfort. For some families, just sticking to familiar routine as much as possible is the best way to reduce anxiety.
- Reduce auditory stimulation
For children who find loud noises difficult, you might want to consider giving your child ear defenders. Ear defenders help to reduce noise, but you can still hear some noise, which can be helpful and reassuring. You could also consider noise cancelling headphones to play a soothing song or favourite audio book. Whatever headphones might work best for your child, it would be worth allowing your child to wear them ahead of Bonfire night so that they can get used to wearing them.
Do not under-estimate the importance of how reassuring it is to young people when you remain calm. The relationship you have with your child, and your presence will help them feel safe by just being close, relaxed, and present. You know your child best, and what will help provide them with additional reassurance.
- Finally…. don’t forget about YOU!
If this is a tricky time for you family, it can be really tiring supporting and containing your child’s distress. If possible, get some additional support and integrate something into the day that will help recharge your batteries.