How to ensure fireworks are fun, not frightening :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Chicago Parent file photo While the sizes and colors may vary, big fireworks always make a big noise-which could scare some kids.

The Fourth of July is known for picnics, parades and, of course, fireworks. But before you incorporate fireworks into your family traditions, you should know that some kids look forward to fireworks displays, but for others it's terrifying.

How can parents know whether the bright explosions will cause cries of excitement or fear?

"Some kids are so young that they don't know what's going on," says Jonathan Pochyly, a staff psychologist at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago. "It's kind of on the order of the mystery of thunder and lightening to them."

To avoid any tears, Pochyly recommends explaining to your child what will happen before going to a fireworks show.

"At the age of 5 or 6 you can explain sufficiently what's going on in terms of fireworks, but the explanation has to be developmentally appropriate," he says. "Some younger kids might just be able to understand that a fireman is keeping it safe."

As for the noise of the show, parents should gauge their own reactions when trying to determine if the explosions are too loud for their children's ears.

"If it seems to be too loud for you, it's definitely too loud for your child," says pediatric audiologist Kristy Grohne of Glen Ellyn.

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association in Rockville, Md., firecrackers, along with ambulance sirens and leaf blowers, range from 110 to 150 decibels in loudness. The association says prolonged exposure to any noise over 85 decibels (about the noise level of a busy street) can cause hearing loss.

Grohne suggests that parents use ear protection with any child under 7 to guard against hearing loss, as well as lessen the fear that might come from the loud explosions. For your child's first fireworks exposure, you might want to stick to sparklers and snappers, especially if your child is normally sensitive to loud noises, says Pochyly.

"After that, you might want to take them to a fireworks show but sit further off, not right in front," he says. "Big explosions could lead to overexposure, and then they could develop a negative feeling towards fireworks."

Parents with children who can enjoy fireworks should check with their local municipality to see if a July 4th show is scheduled.

If you think your child can enjoy a big show, try the Taste of Chicago on July 3 at 9:30 p.m., where the fireworks are set to music.

Navy Pier also has fireworks shows on Wednesdays and Saturdays through Sept. 6. Venetian Night, the annual boat parade scheduled for July 31 at Monroe Harbor, will feature fireworks as well. For more dates and information, visit www.ci.chi.il.us.

Jennifer Mesich



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