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How I keep my anxious child calm on Bonfire Night

How I keep my anxious child calm on Bonfire Night


by Rachel Bellingham
Paediatric nurse and mum of two.

While lots of families love Bonfire Night, we used to dread it in our house. My daughter has always been terrified of loud noises and I know that some young children with anxiety and autism spectrum disorders will also struggle at this time of year.

So, here are a few tips and tricks that I’ve developed over the years to help my daughter. If you have an anxious child, they might be worth a try!

  1. Talk to your child, then listen. The thing that helped me the most was explaining to my daughter, in ways she could understand, what the celebration is about and what she can expect in the days leading up to the event. After I spoke to her I made sure to listen to her fears and concerns, and come up with ways to address them.
  2. Leave little ones at home. When my daughter was little, especially as she’s nervous around loud noises anyway and Bonfire Night could have caused unnecessary stress to her, I found it was best for her to just stay at home. Luckily my mum was happy to babysit as she doesn’t like fireworks either!
  3. Write a social story. Someone introduced me to social stories which are a great way to help children prepare for things that are scary for them. In the days leading up to Bonfire Night, I would either write or help my daughter write a positive social story about what she may experience, and then we’d read it back together. This really helped her feel calmer about the fireworks and festivities.
  4. Plan a calming bedtime routine. Some years, when my daughter was feeling more anxious than usual, we’d decide that staying home was the best thing to do. We found it was a good idea to put her to bed nice and early, with a soothing bedtime routine, so that she would be asleep before any fireworks begin. Our routines included: a warm bath with bubbles, playing relaxing music as she got ready for bed and during story time, reading a soothing story (or two or three) in a cosy chair under a soft blanket.
  5. If you do decide to attend a Bonfire Night celebration, pick a family-friendly spot near the exit. Seeing other kids enjoying the show usually helped my daughter realise that there is no immediate danger and that bonfire night could be enjoyable. But, if the event didn’t go as planned, we could pack up and leave quickly.
  6. And finally, don’t force it. If your children don’t enjoy fireworks, that’s okay. They may learn to love them later in life, and in the meantime, you can plan different activities as a family that don’t require loud noises, like reading a book or making a PaediaSure Shake hot chocolate together.

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