Preparing your older toddler or child for a flight, especially if it’s their first one, can help make the whole experience run more smoothly for all of you, and help avoid any meltdowns both at the airport and during the flight. Below are tips to not only help prepare your child for the flight but also how to reassure a child afraid is afraid of flying or is feeling anxious or nervous about flying.
My top tips for preparing your child for a flight are:
- Read a story about going to the airport and flying on an airplane. (I have lots of suggestions below, which are all available below on Amazon (just click on the image)- some are sticker and magnetic books so double up as entertainment for the flight too.)
- Talk about the process and what will happen. Point to the airplanes in the sky and wonder aloud where they are going to.
- Role -play being on the airplane. You can pretend to be the pilot when driving the car and that you are making sure seat belts are fastened, do a little pre -take off PA. (No one will hear you!) My three year old regularly asks me to do this.
- Have your toddler help choose a couple of favourite items to pack in their carry-on and to help with packing their bag.
- Role- Play going through security and the X-ray machine. You can even make a pretend machine out of a card box if you are feeling creative and have the time. If not, a YouTube video to watch together or one of the books below will help. This will help them understand that for a few minutes they won’t see their favourite toy but they will get it back.
- Role- play with teddy and pretend to fasten his seat belt.
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WHEN A CHILD IS AFRAID OF FLYING
Talk About Any Fears
If your child is scared of flying, let them confide in you about any concerns they may, but don’t impose any of your fears.
Learn How Airplanes Fly
Even as a flight attendant and with relatives who are aircraft engineer, this still fascinates me. This National Geographic video is child friendly and helps with understanding the flying process, including what turbulence is.
On Departure Day
Avoid sugars and refined carbohydrates as this can make kids twitchy and hyper which won’t help any kids fear of flying. Ensure they are well hydrated with water.
Once at the Airport
Arrive at the airport in plenty of time so there is no need to rush. If they are feeling anxious about the flight or nervous about flying, then keeping them busy and distracted once there is key. This I-Spy Airport book is perfect for that. Give the child some age dependant responsibility to help distract; like look out for the gate number, hold their boarding pass, help with bags etc.
Distract Once on the Plane
Once on the plane, if the flight has on demand TV & films as part of the entertainment system, you can help go through movies, games or shows they would like to watch. Alternatively, grab their tablet and headphones so they can watch their favourite show. Now could also be an opportunity to pull out a new toy or activity from your bag.
What to say if there is turbulence.
Turbulence is natural in the skies and it doesn’t bother planes- they are well built to withstand any bumps. It’s completely normal. And although it can feel scary, modern aircraft are designed to withstand a huge amount of turbulence.
What to say if there are thunderstorms
Thunderstorms can frighten kids even on land. Your child may be reassured to know that:
- The airplane radar system is highly sensitive and can pick up storms and determine the size and intensity of storms
- Pilots generally avoid thunderstorms, but going through a storm isn’t dangerous
- A lightning strike won’t hurt the airplane. You’re safe from lightning in the plane
Talk to your doctor if medication is needed to help calm your child as they might offer a child sedative for flying. e.g Phenergan or a melatonin.
BOOKS TO HELP PREPARE YOUR CHILD FOR THE FLIGHT
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