If a child is fearful of flying and they are getting increasingly anxious before take-off, there are some methods to help diffuse the panic.
Being scared of flying is fairly common for people of all ages. However, children might not be able to grasp just how uncommon plane crashes are (chances are approximately 1 in 11 million). So even though as a parent you can assure them they will be more than safe, they still have to make their way down a jetway into an isolated tube– and then launched 30,000 feet in the air. Easier said than done, right?
Here are some ways to help your child be at ease the next time they fly:
Teach children about the history of flying
Before you even leave for the airport, try to build up the excitement of flying, rather than the fear of it. Let’s not forget, that it’s pretty awesome how a bunch of humans can be transported so quickly, high up in the sky. Perhaps explain some history of aviation (the Wright Brothers) and how your child is rather lucky to have a comfy seat and free drinks! After all, air travel in the modern day is quite luxurious compared to its humble beginnings. Perspective is everything when it comes to facing fears.
Use resources to help kids overcome a fear of flying
There are some books specially made for this subject, believe it or not. Reading Rainbow even has a video you can show your kids about it. A child counsellor also has some advice to get kids over their fear of flying here. The Good Stuff channel also has a video that talks about the psychology of the fear of flying, with helpful tips. In that video, they interview a young man who faced his fear of flying by spending 30 days on an operating airplane, non-stop!
If you have children who are afraid to fly, demonstrate being calm and relaxed
It’s important that along every step of your journey, you are modelling relaxed, at-ease behaviour. If you get worked up, chances are you child will feed off of it and heighten their own anxiety.
Turbulence. A common occurrence on flights, some days being much worse than others. If you find yourself in a bout of turbulence, it’s important to reassure your child that it’s completely normal. Perhaps tell them it’s like potholes in the clouds. Or, that they are part of the weather being ‘made’ and it’s going to be bumpy for a bit. Reassure them that turbulence does eventually end– even though at the time, it sure doesn’t seem like it!
Prepare distractions for kids when flying
Let your child know in advance that they have to go through a security screening (think sci-fi fun!), as well as a safety briefing on the plane. Perhaps grab the safety pamphlet from the seat pocket, and quiz them to make sure they were paying attention!
Then, there is the waiting game. Flying takes up a huge chunk of time. From waiting to get on the plane, waiting to take off, the flight time itself, waiting to get off the plane, waiting for luggage… it really is quite boring and uneventful, which might help them be less scared of it.
Since so much time is involved in flying, make sure you have enough resources to occupy them so their mind doesn’t wander into anxious thoughts. Bring games and toys. For older kids, make sure you have a tablet or smartphone (with charger cable on board!) loaded with their favourite movies, music, TV, and games. Bring a journal or paper for them to draw and sketch. Team up with them and try these fun pencil and paper games!
Aim for long term success to fly without fear
Your child will likely feel quite accomplished if they are able to get through a flight without being afraid. Perhaps reward their behaviour with a small treat or gift to mark the occasion.
If your child is having persistent difficulty with flying, perhaps there are underlying reasons that child counselling could help rectify. Otherwise, if you stick to most of the above, chances are your child will be looking forward to their next flight… window seat and all, so they can enjoy the spectacular view!