The summer family travel season is finally here and if last year’s travel trends continue, about 222 million people will take to the skies between June 1 and Aug. 31.1 All that busyness can overwhelm young children (and the adults who travel with them!), so it pays for families to prepare for potential anxiety before they enter a bustling airport or board a crowded plane. While not foolproof, the following tips are worth a read for travelers flying with kids:
Talk to them in advance: Fear of the unknown can be powerful and as adults know, every flight is different. No matter whether children are flying for the first time, or have flown previously, prepare them for what they may experience. Don’t be afraid to go into detail. For example, explain to them that people they don’t know will be on the plane, and talk to them about how their body might feel as the plane takes off, ascends, descends and lands. Afterward, ask them what other questions they may have and offer explanations as best you can.
Redirect their attention: If your children get scared while on the plane, redirect their attention to a new activity. Tell them about the place you’re going, and ask them what they’re most excited to do when they get there. If your plane has an interactive flight map, track your progress together. Surprise the kids with a new toy on board to engage their brains as well as their hands. Parenting.com has a great list, with suggestions and activities like making a collage out of magazine cutouts or working together to write and illustrate a short story.2
Set a “calm” example: Airplane ascents or descents may be uncomfortable for children due to how these events affect the body. Normal reactions, such as plugged ears or butterfly sensations, may cause kids to act out. If they do, your best bet is to stay calm. If your children see that you’re calm, they might just pick up on and mirror your cues. Remember, preparing them in advance for what they may experience on the flight may also help to minimize nervousness.
When needed, ask for help: If your child’s case of flight anxiety is severe, consider seeing a pediatrician about possible options for help. While most doctors will only recommend medication in the most extreme cases, they may be able to share ideas for natural anxiety remedies and techniques (for example, doing breathing exercises, sipping hot beverages, or bringing comfort items from home).
For more great tips for families, visit parents.com.