Last night we took our five year old daughter to see fireworks for the first time. We were probably sitting 50 yards away or so but once the fireworks lit up the sky she expressed her fear and her desire to go home.
Honoring her fears
My first thought was to acknowledge her fear then find out exactly what she was afraid of. We tried to reassure her that she wouldn’t get hurt and we would protect her if anything would happen but that wasn’t enough. She just didn’t feel safe. We got up and moved away from the field where the fireworks were being lit to find a spot far enough away. I continued talking to her trying to find out exactly what was causing the fear. It wasn’t the volume of the noise; she was able to put her fingers in her ears to lessen that. I tried to see and hear it from her point of view. I listened to the sounds that were actually there and not just what I was selectively hearing, they were different. At points the fireworks sounded like screeching bugs or something just as foreign and scary. I kept trying to experience it the way she was in order to understand.
As we continued moving away I kept looking up to see where we were in relation to where the fireworks were in the sky. I realized her concern was with the fireworks bursting right over our heads. She asked me what happens to them after they burn in the sky. I explained that they burn up and fall to earth like burned pieces of paper and how they are completely harmless by the time they reach the ground. She still wasn’t sure but seemed more comfortable if we weren’t right under the fireworks exploding in the sky.
We found a nice spot on a hill nearby where we could see most of the fireworks but weren’t directly under them when they exploded. We acknowledged her fears and took action to make her feel safe because it’s important to us that her needs, desires and fears are all acknowledged and honored as we acknowledge and honor our own. We want her to know she is just as important as we are. We have also found that when someone’s fears are acknowledged they have more of a chance to overcome them than if they are dismissed. So, she expressed her fears, we tried to understand them and found a place where she felt safe. So she was able to enjoy the sights.
Benefits of honoring fears
Acknowledging fears also gives our children the experience they need to identify and overcome their own fears in the future when we aren’t around to help them. Most people in our society are afraid of something and identification is half way to healing. She got over her fear of animals that way.