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How to Help a Child Overcome a Fear of Flying

With her children's ages spanning 22 years, LongTimeMother has 40 years experience in parenting - including home schooling and foster care.

A trip in a plane gives you a chance to see clouds from above. Haven't you always wondered what they look like? If you're really lucky, you'll get to see them at sunset. :)

A trip in a plane gives you a chance to see clouds from above. Haven't you always wondered what they look like? If you're really lucky, you'll get to see them at sunset. :)

Flying for the First Time

You know the fastest way to travel to your holiday destination is on a plane. The tickets are affordable and you could spend more time with your family, but you are afraid of flying

Or maybe you're afraid your child will be afraid of flying. You don't really know how bad your fear of flying is because you've never really tried it. . . but you've seen enough movies and television footage to give you a dry mouth and a fear of all the things that might go wrong.

Without firsthand experience, how can you effectively prepare your child? What can you say? What can you do? How could you cope once you're locked in the plane if your child is unhappy and wants to get off?

Fear of Flying Is an Emotional Response

Most people who have the chance to fly welcome the adventure. They might feel a little nervous, but the fun and excitement of what awaits them at the end of their flight are enough to get them packed, seated, and in the air without any real problem at all.

I'd be surprised if many people step aboard an airplane feeling invincible, but a deep breath and a quick thought or prayer for a safe journey are generally all that's required to get set for take-off.

If you are nervous about flying, don't waste energy trying to analyze why you feel the way you do. Statistics show that plane travel is safer than road travel. If you don't feel overwhelmed by fear every time you sit in a car, there's really no need to succumb to fear about flying.

If you do feel nervous, just accept it. "I'm nervous, but there's no point stressing about it."

Listen to the safety instructions that are given at the beginning of every flight, read the safety card in the pocket of the seat in front of you, then do your best to relax. Busy yourself with a book or a game of sudoku; something that will engage your attention.

Bring a friend on a plane flight. Choose one that is soft, washable and quiet. A good flight buddy is always quiet. Don't bring a toy that can talk.

Bring a friend on a plane flight. Choose one that is soft, washable and quiet. A good flight buddy is always quiet. Don't bring a toy that can talk.

How to Help as the Airplane Takes Off

Pilots fly planes. That's their profession. Buckle up and don't be a backseat driver.

As your plane speeds down the runway don't worry about how fast you're going or how fast you think you should be going. Forget about how long the runway looked or how long it should take to leave the ground.

Just accept that planes gain speed quickly, there may be a bit of a lurch as the plane leaves the ground, and once you are in the air the pilot will turn the plane to head in the right direction

If you are sitting beside your child, now is a good time to make sure their special soft toy is comfortable. With young children, I generally ask if they think teddy looks excited. . . and if the engines sound particularly noisy during take-off (depending on the type of plane you're flying in), I joke about it being noisier than my washing machine or the lawnmower—and I ask the kids what else makes this much noise?

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"So this is what it feels like when you take off in a plane," you could say. "Do you think we can remember how to describe this to granny?"

There are lots of things you can discuss with your child. Ask them questions and they'll concentrate on the answers. What colour are the seats? How many people do you think are on our plane? Talk about trips that other people you know have taken - and whether or not they flew there.

Within minutes you'll be in the air and the engines will be less noisy.

Lots of Parents Fly With Children

I have lived in many places with my children—all of them requiring a plane trip to visit friends and family left behind.

Catch a plane between Australia and anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere and you quickly learn what works and what doesn't with children on a plane. The flights are so long that kids become bored with crayons and all the usual games people rely on when traveling by road.

In a plane, you are in an extremely confined space, so it is very important you be well prepared before boarding the flight. Drop a pencil or a piece of a puzzle and you'll have trouble retrieving it from between or beneath the seats.

Give thought to what interests your child and plan how you will amuse them in the airport and on the plane. Flying is not a time for tantrums and tears.

Have a new game hidden away for each leg of the journey. If your child is bored with the last one, produce the next game when you need them to stay quiet and still. :)

Have a new game hidden away for each leg of the journey. If your child is bored with the last one, produce the next game when you need them to stay quiet and still. :)

Some planes have screens in the backs of seats for inflight entertainment. They may show movies, or maps of the plane's progress. Some show a view of the ground during landing. You don't have to watch. :)

Some planes have screens in the backs of seats for inflight entertainment. They may show movies, or maps of the plane's progress. Some show a view of the ground during landing. You don't have to watch. :)

The Best Toy to Bring on the Plane

Nintendo DS has been replaced by DSi and other more updated versions, but the Nintendo products still remain my preferred toy for amusing children on planes. They are compact and sturdy.

  • Packed away in its own strong carry case with room for storing games, the DS can easily fit in the small travel bag I take on board the plane, or even my coat pocket.
  • We have dropped Nintendo products many times and they've withstood the harsh treatment. Can't say the same for the ipod or ipads that hit the ground, sadly.
  • They don't have a phone and don't attract the same restrictions for using on planes.
  • Good variety of simple games—for adults and children.
  • Easy-to-see screen without pixelation.
  • You can simply shut the game and put it away while you get on or off the plane, then open it again when there's more time spent waiting, and pick up where you left off.
  • Bring an earphone or headphones if your child is unable to play the games with the volume turned off.

When my kids were sleeping, I'd put a Brain Training or Mahjong game in the DSi and amuse myself.

When we fly with backpacks, our kids fly with backpacks. If we take bags with wheels, so do our kids. Children like to feel as though they are keeping up with their parents. Use this to overcome their fear of flying. Be confident. They will be too.

When we fly with backpacks, our kids fly with backpacks. If we take bags with wheels, so do our kids. Children like to feel as though they are keeping up with their parents. Use this to overcome their fear of flying. Be confident. They will be too.

Which Is Best: Window Seat or Aisle?

The size of your plane will determine how many people are seated side by side. In a small plane for instance, there might only be two seats between the window and the aisle. In a larger plane, there are generally three seats down each side with a wider row in the centre.

Do you care where you sit, or will you just leave it to chance?

There are advantages to being near the window. You get to look at the view and take photos.

If you have a fear of flying and think you're not yet ready to see a wing and the workings of the plane outside your window, ask to be seated where you see only the view.

In an aisle seat, you can stand and walk to the toilet or just exercise your legs without bothering the person next to you. If you are traveling with family, it is not such an issue. Disturbing a husband, wife, or child to give you free passage in and out of your seat is much easier than repeatedly asking a stranger to make room.

When traveling with a child, particularly on a long flight, I suggest you put yourself closest to the aisle so your little one isn't tempted to get out of their seat and wander - especially if you have fallen asleep.

When you look out your plane window and you see a mountain below you, don't panic. Millions of people just like me successfully travel in planes. Would you like a window seat to take great photos? Do you want to see the wing as well, or not?

When you look out your plane window and you see a mountain below you, don't panic. Millions of people just like me successfully travel in planes. Would you like a window seat to take great photos? Do you want to see the wing as well, or not?

Fear of Flying. . . or Fear of the Unknown?

I suspect for many people the fear of flying is largely due to a fear of the unknown.

If you are the type of person who doesn't like to leave their comfort zone and feels very uncomfortable having to ask questions that make you feel 'stupid', catching a plane for the first time can be very intimidating.

Here are a few tips that might help.

Tips for First -Time Plane Passengers

Never be afraid to ask questions. Talk to staff ... and other passengers.

Can I walk around on a plane?

Yes. You can stretch your legs if you'd like to, but there are certain times when you are required to remain in your seat. There will be a light on the console above your head that shows you when you are required to stay in your seat.

Are there toilets on planes?

Yes. The cubicles are generally rather small but they have everything you need. Flushing the toilet might make a loud 'whoosh' noise, using suction not water to clear waste.

Can I get a pillow if I want to sleep?

Absolutely. Ask for one, particularly for children. Some plane seats however have little 'flaps' that pull out as head rests to cradle your head. You might not need a pillow.

What if I'm cold?

Turn off the air vent directed towards your seat. (Look up at the console.) You can also ask for a rug. Press the button on the console (or on the arm rest between seats) to get the flight attendant's attention.

Does take off and landing hurt your ears?

That depends a lot on the person. Take a lolly or piece of candy to suck. Give one to your child. Sucking on a drink bottle or a bottle of water might help.

What am I allowed to take on the plane with me?

Google search your chosen airline. Ask your travel agent. Remember rules may vary on international flights. There might be rules about packaging liquids and whether or not you can even take bottles of drink on board. Where you live will affect the answer to this question.

I am vegetarian. If they serve me a meal can I ask for vegetarian food?

If you have special dietary requirements, make them known at the time you book your flight. Most airlines are happy to accommodate you.

Can I take my own food on a plane?

You can certainly take packets of sealed food on most flights eg packets of crisps. Pieces of fruit etc are generally okay on most flights, but you might have to discard them if they are uneaten before passing through customs or quarantine areas after landing.

What should I wear?

Wear comfortable clothing, particularly on long flights. Choose the right shoes. If your feet swell as some people's do, you might find yourself wishing you'd worn different footwear. Wear or carry a coat onboard if you'll be getting off the plane at a colder destination. :)

How to Deal With Turbulence

Let me start by saying I have been on many flights where it has been a smooth ride from beginning to end. No storms, no strong winds, no turbulence.

I have also been on a handful where the weather has been atrocious and the airplane has passed through ferocious storms. Sometimes the experience lasts for just a few minutes while the plane climbs above the stormy weather, and a couple of times we have just ploughed on through the storm.

If you are making a short trip from one city to another, the solution to the problem of turbulence is easy. Book your flight on a nice sunny day, and travel while the weather is fine.

Of course international flights are far more difficult to make spontaneously and you'd be hard-pressed to accurately predict the weather high in the air over a journey of thousands of miles or kilometres.

When I find myself bumping around due to turbulence, I remind myself that I am not the first to be flying through a storm - and I won't be the last. It is simply part of the experience.

You are not doing yourself any favors if you start to panic because of bad weather. Leave the flying to the experts in the cockpit. There's nothing you can do about it.

As soon as I become aware of turbulence ahead (the pilot generally makes a cool, calm announcement over the intercom), if I am traveling alone I decide it is time to take a nap. If I am traveling with children, it is time for them to take a nap - and I stay awake to make sure they sleep through.

Turbulence can be unsettling, but it tends to simply be a slight rocking - and that's easy to sleep through. If you've ever made a long journey on a train and been rocked to a sound sleep, close your eyes and imagine you are on that train again. :)

Silly you if you watch those tv programs that highlight plane accidents. I honestly don't understand why anyone would bother. Such programs will feed anyone's fear of flying. Many more hours of television could be made about flights that successfully complete their journey, irrespective of the weather encountered along the way.

Don't feed the fear. Just accept that sometimes flights have bumpy periods. It's all just part of the journey.

How would you rate your fear of flying?

Keep thinking about your destination

There is always something to spot in an airport that will make a great story to tell when you fly home. Australians get a good laugh at the sign at Boise Idaho's airport that says Smell the Bloomin' Onion. Who will you tell your stories to?

There is always something to spot in an airport that will make a great story to tell when you fly home. Australians get a good laugh at the sign at Boise Idaho's airport that says Smell the Bloomin' Onion. Who will you tell your stories to?