Before I was a mom, I was one of those people that actually dreaded sitting near kids while I was flying. But now I’m that parent–the one apologizes in advance for the way her children may act before the plane even departs. It’s easy to deal with the tantrums at home where you can remove him from the room, walk away, or just ignore the entire thing. But when you’re on an airplane – surrounded by gazing childless people, it’s a lot harder to figure out what you should do.
So what do you do if your toddler decides to throw a tantrum mid-air? I’ve come up with tried and true suggestions that may help with the meltdown (which hopefully doesn’t end up happening):
1) Set expectations early
The night before, have a talk with your toddler. Let them know what you expect from them in advance. “We’re going to go on an airplane tomorrow. You will have to keep your seatbelt on and stay in your seat for a few hours. You’re not going to be able to get up and walk around on the airplane.” Also, “there will be other people on the airplane. They will want to read or sleep and when somebody is sleeping, they want people to be quiet. So we’re going to have to use our inside voices and not cry or talk loudly on the airplane. Ok?” Discuss your expectations of your child again before boarding the plane. Lots of repetition will help get the point across and if you’re toddler can talk, ask him/her questions about what you just discussed, “Are you going to walk around the airplane?”
2) Be prepared
You know what situations or circumstances pushes your toddlers buttons. Plan accordingly. If he has a meltdown because he’s hungry, keep plenty of snacks in your carryon. If he gets cranky in the afternoon, avoid flying at that time if at all possible. If moving from one transition to another makes him fall apart, let him know ahead of time what you will be doing. “We’re going to wake up early and go fly on a big airplane. Then we’re going to get off that airplane, eat some lunch, and then get on another airplane before we go see Mickey.” Giving your toddler a heads up as to what is going to happen, gives him time to adjust … instead of react.
3) Keep them busyPack plenty of snacks and plenty of toys (magna doodle, color wonder, books, new surprise toys, old favorite toys, DVD player). Pack healthy snack options and try to avoid sugary snacks if you can but keep an emergency sucker just in case. Earphones are magical … they’re new to the child, it’ll block out other distractions around him, and you don’t have to worry about bothering anyone else around you with episodes of “Yo Gabba Gabba” on repeat.
4) Focus on your child – nobody else
Apologize in advance to those around you. That way you’ve covered your bases. If it happens, you’ve already made your peace. If it doesn’t happen, you’ll most likely hear a compliment upon landing.
But let’s face it. You prepared, you planned – and for some reason, it just didn’t work. Little man is having a full-blown meltdown and you’re still hours from your destination. Now you’re stuck 35,000 feet in the air with a screaming 2-year-old and an airplane full of unkind eyes watching your every move. What do you do? First of all, remember that passengers are just that … passengers. Most likely strangers. People you will never see again. And any of those passengers that are parents are just sitting there thanking their lucky stars that it’s you in the hot seat today instead of them.
What about the judgmental passengers? Blah! Put them out of your mind and solely concentrate on your toddler. More often than not, it is just our brain being dramatic and thinking that everyone is looking at us when all actuality … people are far too self-consuming and self-centered to really care what is going on with anybody else.
5) Stay calm
If your toddler is throwing a tantrum, the worst thing you can do is freak out. Easy to say when your little one isn’t throwing toys, banging his head on his seat, kicking the seat, and turning blue from screaming so hard. When your toddler is swept up in a tantrum, he’s really unable to listen to reason. Don’t yell or threaten … this will only add fire to the fuel. Do what you do at home. Sing his favorite lullaby, get up and walk if you can, distract him with a new toy or favorite snack. Just know and understand that the tantrum won’t last forever. More than likely, your little one is upset with his change in schedule and the unfamiliar situation that he hasn’t yet learned how to manage. Therefore, your child’s response is fight or flight. Reassure your child you are there, let him look at the passing white clouds, sing his favorite song, rub his back, and give him plenty of loving hugs.
The “goodness” of your toddler is not a reflection on your parenting skills as neither are tantrums. Do not apologize for having a child and do not let negative comments get to you. You can apologize in advance for the storm that may occur, but do not apologize for being a parent. Remember, even though the flight may seem three times as long, you will eventually land, be able to get some fresh air, sit down, take some deep breaths, and have a drink.
Have you found something that’s worked best for your child if they started to have a meltdown while flying? Let us know about it!
Amanda is a freelance writer and blog owner of “The Procrastinating Mommy” – a PR friendly family blog. You can also follow her on Twitter at: @Amanda_aka_Mom or on Facebook at: The Procrastinating Mommy.