Fireworks And Children: Can They Go Together Safely?

As we get caught up in the festive season, parents have a nagging fear that kids will come to harm during the celebrations. Let’s turn to our experts for guidance on keeping kids safe during Diwali.

By Team ParentCircle  • 14 min read

Fireworks And Children: Can They Go Together Safely?

Diwali and firecrackers are almost synonymous. Fireworks are something most children look forward to with excitement. For others, they’re a source of trauma. For parents, either way, they trigger anxiety. So, what’s the solution? Staying away from fireworks totally? 

The ParentCircle experts’ panel answers some frequently asked questions about children and fireworks, and how to make Diwali safe as well as fun for kids of different ages.

Situation 1:

You are the proud parents of a little one who is celebrating her very first Diwali. It calls for a double celebration! There are firecrackers and bright lights, and loud music all around. Relatives are crowding around your baby, feeding her sweets. But your little one is extremely uncomfortable and keeps crying.

Don’t panic, Dr. Santosh Kumar, Consultant, Paediatrician and Neonatologist, Motherhood Hospital, Banashankari, Bangalore, answers some questions that new parents often ask in connection with Diwali.

What should I do if the sound of crackers makes my baby cry continuously?

If your infant fusses and cries during the Diwali celebrations, try the following:

  • Take her away from the source of noise and keep her in a quiet environment.
  • Cover her ears and head snugly.
  • The mother can hold the child close and feed her if possible.

Can loud noises during Diwali affect my baby's hearing? How can I protect him?

Yes, the loud sounds of crackers during Diwali might affect your baby’s ears. If the crackers are being burst in close proximity to the child, the noise level might go up to 160-170 decibels. Normally, the baby is comfortable hearing around 75-85 decibels. Any sound beyond 85 decibels will affect the ears of new-born babies and infants.

Watch this exclusive video from ParentCircle on ensuring a safe Diwali:

Precautions that can be taken are:

  • Covering the baby’s head and ears with a cap.
  • Keeping the baby in a closed room, where noise cannot penetrate.

I am worried about my baby’s safety around firecrackers. Should I keep her away from Diwali festivities?

There is no need to completely avoid Diwali festivities. However, new parents should keep these points in mind:

  • The smoke from the fireworks might affect the respiratory tracks of children. So keep them away from smoke-filled areas.
  • Never allow very young children to get close to fireworks, even unlighted ones, as they contain harmful chemicals and the sensitive skin of babies may react to them.

Can Diwali celebrations affect my baby’s respiratory tract?

Yes, smoke can irritate a baby’s delicate respiratory tract, and respiratory infections are common during this season. Try to prevent your little one from inhaling smoke from crackers. Take the child to an open environment, where the smoke dissipates quickly.

If your child experiences breathing difficulty during the Diwali season, take him to a hospital immediately. A doctor will suggest ways to clear the child’s lungs. This could include medication and nebulisation.

“I recommend that everyone, particularly families with children, celebrate Diwali in an eco-friendly way. You’ll double your joy, as you’ll be keeping your family safe from hazardous chemical-laden smoke, and also contributing your bit to the environment.” - Dr Santosh Kumar.

It’s not only infants who are adversely affected by Diwali fireworks. Even slightly older children may not be very comfortable around them.

Situation 2

You are looking forward to celebrating Diwali and lighting some crackers along with your 5-year-old son, creating memories for him and at the same time reliving some childhood memories of your own. To your dismay, you find that your child is spooked by the blast of even the smallest cracker. He fears firecrackers so much that not only does he not want to light one himself, he won’t even come out of his room to watch others lighting them!

Let’s hear what our in-house expert Arundhuti Swami, child counsellor, has to say to parents of pre-schoolers who have questions related to their children and Diwali.

My pre-schooler is terrified of crackers while some others of her age are not. Why is this? What should I do?

Young children are naturally afraid – of both imaginary and real things. A vivid imagination transports the child into worlds of fantasy where all sorts of unrealistic, scary things are possible. The boundaries between fantasy and reality are fluid to them. To a pre-schooler, her imagined fears are very real.

Add to this the fact that parents and adults are, in a general context, constantly cautioning children about the dangers of fire. Yet, during Diwali, we adults cajole them, plead with them, even order them to handle fire or at least go close to it, going against our own strict warnings against such behaviour. To a pre-schooler, these mixed signals are extremely confusing.

And the third facet is, fireworks are by nature fiery, startlingly noisy and unpredictable in their trajectories. There is an auditory and visual overload which causes sensory discomfort and fear in most young children.

The good news is, children eventually outgrow most, if not all, of their early childhood fears, as cognitive growth helps them distinguish between reality and fantasy. As they grow older and reasoning skills develop, children, adapt to ambient sights and adjust to varying degrees of sound.

Rather than choose to focus on why some young children remain unafraid of crackers (need we compare?), we must keep a soothing hand on the fearful child. With large doses of understanding and comfort, you can make your child less afraid and more confident.

How can parents handle this fear sensitively?

Some parents try to coax their children to enjoy the crackers, or force them to light one or two. 'It’s nothing; nothing to fear', they keep telling the child. But think! Is this the right approach?

Crackers may be loads of fun for older children and grown-ups as they relive childhood memories through them. Carried away by the feeling of playfulness and spontaneity, adults and older children become unmindful of what the little ones may be feeling – fear. Fear is a natural response to a threatening stimulus. Crackers and fireworks are such stimuli to young children.

Some of us may recognise the fear and try half-heartedly to be reassuring, but our tone of voice is a sure giveaway of our underlying annoyance. What a fearful child needs most is parents who understand the fear, and comfort and keep him safe. Forcing a fearful child to play with crackers or watch them go off can be extremely stressful. Instead, let your child know that his fear is normal and it is perfectly fine for him to keep away from all the action in order to feel safe.

Allow your child to hide behind you or cling to you if that makes her feel better. Pushing a child into situations before she is comfortable and ready for them will only break her trust in you and her fears can transfer to other situations as well. Over time these unattended fears can lead to anxiety that will impede her self-confidence and cause her to withdraw and give up on opportunities to learn new things.”

Some parents feel embarrassed that their child is scared of crackers. Will children realise that their parents are ashamed or annoyed with them? What kind of impact can this have on them?

Embarrassment is a very difficult emotion to deal with. Parents tend to feel embarrassed about a whole lot of things. There are so many expectations. While it’s good for parents to have expectations of their child’s behaviour, the expectations must be clear, age-appropriate and realistic. Parents must know that fear is as normal as any other emotion and young children are not yet skilled in regulating their emotions. Therefore, their fear is raw, real and easily expressed. Parents who understand this fear, respond to their child with empathy and proceed to calm and comfort him. A child, denied of this emotional support, feels let-down, hurt, more afraid. He will use survival behaviours such as tantrums, uncontrollable crying, pleading and aggression – all leading to increased embarrassment for the parents. A negative loop of interaction between parent and child is set in motion. Ultimately the emotional connect between parent and child is weakened. Insecurity sets in, the child becomes timid, nervous and develops a vulnerable self-image.

You’ve successfully negotiated the infant- and pre-teen stage of parenting during Diwali. But, as your child grows and fears vanish, a different problem could surface.

Situation 3

It’s Diwali and everyone is in a celebratory mood, especially your teenaged son and his group of friends. The youngsters are trying to outdo each other in daredevilry, lighting fireworks with no thought to their own safety or that of others. How do you stop this dangerous showing-off? How do you make them respect safety norms without disrupting the festive mood or without offending the young people?

Arundhati explains the way a teenager’s mind works, as she answers parents’ questions on how such situations can be handled.

Why do teenagers seem to be drawn to trying dangerous stunts with crackers? Why do they like to show off?

Showing off and taking risks whenever an opportunity presents itself are part and parcel of a teenager’s mental makeup. During the teenage years, the brain goes through a phase of significant remodelling and re-construction, discarding unwanted and unused neural connections. It prepares itself to function more efficiently and effectively to meet the demands of the coming years and find the courage it takes to embrace freedom and explore the unfamiliar world. There are shifts in dopamine activity in the brain. The increase in dopamine fuels the desire for reward and pleasure, and triggers the risk-taking tendency, and makes them seek out thrills, adventure and new experiences.

Further, because the pre-frontal cortex (the region in the brain that is responsible for emotional regulation and impulse control) is still developing, teenagers tend to be impulsive and daring. The desire for reward and pleasure easily lures them into taking on challenges without considering the consequences of dangerous stunts. And that includes dangerous stunts with crackers.

How parents can deal with behaviour that puts the safety of their children at stake?

Parents can engage in some quiet chat time with their teenagers. But be sure to stay away from the ‘lecture mode’ and don’t be obvious about giving advice. Instead, help your child come up with the likely consequences of dangerous stunts himself Allowing teenagers to think for themselves activates their critical thinking skills that help counter the tendency towards rash and impulsive behaviours. Discuss potential situations when he spends time with peers, and their inherent risks, and why being conscious of the need to ensure the safety for the larger group is important. With some luck, you can get your teenager to be the safety warden during family celebrations. The need to assume responsibility and display caring and restraint will earn him the rewards and pleasure he instinctively seeks. It’s a win-win for all!

Diwali is all about spreading happiness. Armed with knowledge, common sense and a little tact, you can deal with any situation that comes up. This Diwali, take steps to keep your little one safe, healthy and comfortable. ParentCircle wishes you and your child light and joy this festive season!  

Also read: 10 Safety Tips For Your Family This Diwali

About the experts:

Arundhati Swamy, Counsellor and Head Parent-Engagement Programmes, ParentCircle.

Dr Santosh Kumar, Consultant, Paediatrician and Neonatologist, Motherhood Hospital, Banashankari, Bangalore

About the author: 

Written by Team ParentCircle on 21 October 2019.

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