Spring break is here and I wonder how many overcrowded flights will have the hysteria of a crying child. It is an incredibly unpleasant experience for the child, their parents and fellow passengers. I have always been intrigued by the reaction of the parents. I’ve seen parents who spend the entire flight arduously trying to help the child, while other parents were so mortified by the disruption they become overwhelmed and finally the parent who is totally oblivious to the upset. The most shocking, however, is the lack of tolerance some other passengers have in the situation. Has everyone forgotten that we were that child at some point and probably the parent at another?
When I had my first child, Sofia, I was faced with the ever-classic decision to stay home or keep on my weekly traveling career path. I decided to blend both worlds and traveled with Sofia and a babysitter (usually Grandma Lulu or my sister). In her first year Sofi flew approximately fifty flights; and while I don’t travel weekly anymore I have learned how to fly in peace with my three children under eight years old.
Planning for all the reasons your child may cry and how to keep them entertained during a flight will minimize the stress of travel. Here are some helpful tips:
- Hands-Free: Use an organized backpack or messenger to ensure you have both hands available to react quickly.
- First Aid: Bring a small first aid kit for minor issues to keep children comfortable, and remember the miracle of an adhesive bandage.
- Timing: Give yourself the gift of time and arrive early to the airport to avoid rushing.
- Safety: Turbulence and our worst nightmare are too forceful for a person to hang onto a child, and they should remain seated with the exception of using the restroom. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), “Strongly urges you to secure your child in a CRS or device based on the child’s weight.” Also, alert the airline if there are any special needs in the family, for example a peanut allergy.
- Clothing: Dress everyone comfortably in layers to control temperature with shoes that are removed easily.
- Rest: Put children to bed early the night before to ensure a good rest for the day of travel and avoidance of overtired crying.
- Schedule: Book the flight to coincide with naptime, if possible, and consider arriving to the destination the night before all of the great plans.
- Backpacks: Each child needs their own pack filled with their favorite items, snacks and water bottle (fill with water after arriving at the airport for security). Fill the bags days earlier and make them off limits until takeoff to pique their interest. Avoid any sugary snacks or drinks.
- Tablets: If your child has one, put new games and movies on them and place into their pack with headphones.
- Air Pressure: This is one of the main reasons children cry. Offer a pacifier or bottle to babies and snack to children right at takeoff and landing to avoid excruciating ear pain.
- Physical Activity: If possible, give the children some playtime before heading to the airport to ensure there isn’t any extra bottled-up energy.
If the children are old enough, have a conversation about the intentions of a trip and your expectations of them. Help them understand their part of the family dynamic and their responsibilities in good behavior. Also remember, children may still cry with good planning and organization; keep your focus on helping them and not at all about what others may think.
The key: Remember that together we are a community; support the families around you and be patient. The last thing a parent needs when their child is crying is judgment.
Trina M. Fresco, Vice President of Operations for the IT firm smarTECHS.net since 2007 and NBCLatino Contributor, was named one of “50 Powerful Minority Women in Business” by MEA Magazine. Fresco is the Chair of the Chicago Foundation for Women Investment Subcommittee and serves on a number of additional boards & committees. Fresco resides Chicago with her husband, George and their three children Sofia, Giana and Lorenzo. You can contact her at FrescoRealTalk@gmail.com or on Twitter @trinafresco.