How to help a child with fear of flying
Whether it’s spiders, going to the dentist or even the dark, there are many things that children can be afraid of. Just like many adults, some kids are fearful of flying. It’s understandable for little ones to be concerned about jumping on a plane and soaring thousands of feet into the sky, but there are ways you can ease their anxieties.
How to ease a child's fear of flying
It’s not unusual for children to be unsure about taking to the skies, especially if they have little experience in doing so. To help your little one feel happy and comfortable on their next travel adventure, check out our top tips below.
Talk about it
Ahead of your flight, make sure you sit with your child and talk about the upcoming journey. Ask them what it is about flying that makes them feel anxious. Try to remain calm and reassuring, and explain that there are lots of people, such as the pilots, flight attendants and even the airport staff, who are working hard to keep them safe.
You might find it useful to talk your child through each step of the journey. Explain what happens when you arrive at the airport, from dropping your baggage off at the check-in desk to getting through to the departure lounge. Talk about what you can do while you wait for your flight, such as stocking up on snacks, and what activities they can enjoy while they are on the plane.
There’s no denying that it can be challenging explaining how a plane works in a way that will ease your child’s concerns. Most importantly, you should reiterate that they will be safe and comfortable. You may find it useful to read books about travelling by plane with your little one, or you could even search for age-appropriate cartoons on YouTube to help prepare them for their next flight.
There’s nothing worse than rushing your way through an airport - especially when you’re travelling with your family in tow. What’s more, hurrying your kids along may just add to their anxiety, so to ensure they feel calm and relaxed ahead of their flight, make sure you arrive at the airport with plenty of time to spare.
There are a few things you can do in advance of your travel day that could help make it a more seamless, stress-free experience. For example, you might want to book your parking spot ahead of time. This means you needn’t worry about finding a place to leave your vehicle when you get to the terminal, setting you and your kids up for a smooth travel day from the get go.
It’s also a good idea to have all of your travel documentation ready in the lead up to your trip, whether you have these readily available on your smartphone or you decide to print out hard copies. By having this paperwork to hand, you can spend more time focusing on your kids.
You should also find that you’re able to check-in for your flight online in the days before your flight. This means once you get to the check-in desk, all you need to do is drop off your luggage, giving you more time to guide your little ones through the airport.
Explain the security process
So that your child knows exactly what to expect upon their arrival at the airport, it might be a good idea to explain how the security process works. You should explain that airport security is in place to ensure everyone stays safe, and that it is a process that everybody has to follow, no matter which plane they are boarding or where they are going.
Make it clear that they might need to wait in a queue of people before reaching the security screening point. Being in a large crowd of people can be unsettling for some children, so it’s a good idea to prepare them ahead of time. To keep this wait time to a minimum, you could purchase a Fast Track security pass. This gives you use of the airport’s dedicated priority queue, meaning you can skip the standard security line and get to the security screening checkpoint sooner.
You should also describe the security process, explaining to your child that they may need to remove their shoes, belt and any other loose items they have on them that day, and that they will need to place their belongings into a tray to be sent through an X-ray machine. It’s also important to mention that they will need to walk through a metal detector-style machine, or perhaps even a body scanner.
Keep them busy
Keeping your child busy is a great way to take their mind off their fear of flying. The good news is, there are a number of ways you can do this throughout your journey.
For example, when you’re in the departure lounge waiting for your flight to start boarding, distract your child by taking them for a bite to eat at one of the airport’s restaurants, or let them choose a book or magazine to enjoy on the plane. You may even have some time to watch the planes from one of the airport's windows that overlook the runway. Seeing the planes take off and land may help ease your child’s mind about flying.
Once you have boarded the plane, ensure your child feels safe and comfortable in their seat, and let them explore the area around them. Make sure you pack lots of fun activities for your child to get stuck into during the flight too. For instance, you could pack colouring-in books, travel board games, puzzle books and a small selection of toys.
Be prepared with snacks and treats
Making sure you have a stash of your kid’s favourite snacks to hand is a great way to keep them happy and distracted during a flight. From healthy nibbles, such as fruit bars, rice cakes and crackers, to indulgent snacks, like biscuits and chocolate bars, stock up on a selection of special treats for the plane journey to ensure they don’t go hungry. This can be especially useful since in-flight food can sometimes be slim pickings - particularly if you have a fussy eater.