After You First Sit Down

After getting settled, we try to explain to our kids what they can expect. This seems to take some of the fear and uncertainty out of what might be a very new and strange experience. We show them how to work the seat belts, the tray table and, when they were a bit older, the headphones and volume controls. Point out the toilets.

Explain that the cabin attendants will conduct a safety lecture, and that while nothing usually goes wrong, knowing about safety makes you less afraid"€you'll know what to do!

As you board, you may hear a hissing/whining sound from the back of the plane. That's a small power unit that provides air conditioning while the aircraft is parked. It is usually on when you board but if you're an early boarder it might kick in while you are trying to get your carry-on into an overhead bin stuffed with bags, car parts, live goats and someone's life's work as a bronze sculptor.

Afraid to fly? No, no, not afraid to fly because your kids will crayon the walls in business class, but really afraid of flying? Airfraid.com is all about helping folks deal with their fears in the air. There is a section on flying with your kids, though the real value of the site lies with its patient approach to helping people feel better in the air.

Just before the plane starts moving, the air conditioning may momentarily shut off and the cabin lights may blink. This happens when the pilot shifts the plane from external power (i.e., the plane is plugged in to an electrical source on the ground) to internal power, as the plane starts using electrical power generated by its own engines. At times the A/C hisses when it first pops on. Sometimes our kids got scared, thinking something was broken. The series of dull thumps you'll hear is baggage being loaded, followed by a loud THUMP that means the baggage compartment doors are being shut.

As the pilot fires up the engines and the plane begins taxiing toward take off, items can shift and the mechanical surfaces of the aircraft make creaking and clunking noises. The A/C may shut off as all power is applied to the engines. Preparing your child for these noises makes them less scary.

Once airborne, the pilot will retract the landing gear. This usually makes a loud thumping sound that can be less scary if it is anticipated. Also, in flight as the pilot works the flight control surfaces on the wings it can look to some kids like the wings are falling apart. Again, explaining your child might see something like that can make it exciting instead of spooky. A confident tone explaining these strange noises (“Mom knew what was gonna happen before it happened!”) can take away a lot of the scariness.

I still remember fondly holding my 18-month-old on a few flights where we would take off. I was truly excited to be taking an adverture with her. She picked up on that excitement and never had a trace of fear. When we were about to land, I'd say, “It's going to be bumpy bumpy!” Once we hit the ground with a thud, it was fun to go bumpedty bumpedty rather than scary.

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