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Travel can be difficult if you have a fear of flying. But what if it’s your child who is scared to fly? That’s even worse! This can be especially difficult if your family loves to travel. So, how do you show your child the world when they don’t want to fly? How do you calm their fears? Here are 9 simple tips to handle child anxiety when flying.
Tip #1: Talk it over.
Many times, children’s apprehension over flying has more to do with a fear of the unknown than anything else. If this is the case with your child, try talking them through the process of flying.
Explain to them what the plane looks like on the inside, what takeoff feels like, and what sounds to expect. Tell them about the safety features on board. Discuss how pilots train before being allowed to fly.
Talk about any other aspects of flying that worries your child. Eliminating the mystery of the unknown can go a long way towards calming your child’s fears and making them feel safe while in the air.
Tip #2: Watch planes.
Another way to familiarize your child with flying is to watch planes take off and land.
Depending on how scared your child is, you can do this in one or two ways. Option one is to go to the airport once or twice prior to the day of your travel and watch the planes.
Option two is to go to the airport extra early for your flight and watch the planes from the window at your gate.
As you watch planes take off and land, talk to your child about how many times a day planes fly without any problems.
If they are old enough, you can also explain all of the safety precautions and checks that are done on planes before they take off. You may even be able to see some of these checks taking place from the window at your gate.
Tip #3: Bring a lovey.
Whether it’s a favorite blanket, stuffed animal, or other toy, never underestimate the power of a lovey to calm a scared child.
My son loves to fly but gets nervous during takeoff. Having his favorite stuffed animal buckled into the seat with him makes it easier for him to handle.
For extra comfort, bestow your child’s lovey with special flying powers to help sooth frayed nerves.
Tip #4: Hold hands.
Another tip to decrease child anxiety when flying is to hold your child’s hand during the scary parts of the flight.
This combined with having his lovey works like a charm for my son. Regardless of whether your child is 2 or 20, sometimes having a hand to squeeze is all a kid needs to be brave.
Tip #5: Create a distraction.
Flying when scared is one of those times when kids being easily distracted works in your favor. To help your child forget about the anxiety, distract them with something fun.
You can use video games, a movie, stickers, or even telling them a story. Or pretend they are a superhero because all the great superheros can fly! Try whispering in their ear to make them extra focused on what you’re telling them.
You could also try giving your child a token of some sort with the power to keep the plane safe.
The goal is to focus their attention on something other than the fear and flying. Many times, the anticipation is worse than the reality, so a distraction may just be what you need to eliminate the fear.
Tip #6: Praise and reward.
To motivate your child to be brave enough to face their fears, use praise and rewards.
Your child’s age and personality will determine what reward will work best. But defining the flight as a challenge to be conquered can help your kid get past the anxiety instead of becoming a victim to it.
This works especially well with competitive children.
Tip #7: Sleep through it.
Sleep is a great way to cope with child anxiety when flying. If you can get your kid to sleep through a flight, then they won’t even know that they are flying.
You can help your child achieve sleep on the plane in a variety of ways.
Book flights during their normal sleeping hours. Give them a travel pillow, blanket, and eye mask. Dress them in pajamas or comfortable clothes. Avoid caffeine and sugar before the flight. Consider giving them a dose of melatonin before takeoff.
Even if your child doesn’t sleep, these tips will help them to relax and feel calmer.
Tip #8: Try meditation.
If your child is old enough, try meditation to help reduce their anxiety of the flight.
This can be accomplished through breathing exercises, repeating a mantra, or visualizing something peaceful.
The added benefit of teaching your child to use meditation to overcome their fear is that it is a technique they can use in other areas of their life.
Tip #9: Seek a professional.
If your child’s anxiety when flying is extreme, seek the advice of a professional. Find a child psychologist or therapist for guidance specific to your child. Helping them get over this fear early in life will be a gift that lasts a lifetime.
Traveling with children is a wonderful way to expose them to new places and cultures. It is a great way to teach them so many life lessons. But this is difficult to do if you have to fight child anxiety when flying.
These tips should help you calm your child’s fears so you can show them the world. For more tips, read about stress-free travel with your spouse, how to travel stress free with kids during the holidays, and reducing adult anxiety when flying.
For help with kids and flying, read our comprehensive guide to happy travel with kids, how to prepare kids for long flights, tips for flying with kids, how to avoid child meltdowns while traveling, how to pack your carryon when flying with kids, and common mistakes to avoid when flying with toddlers.
Have a tip for reducing child anxiety when flying? Share it in the comments. Happy travels!