How to Talk to Your Child About Flying Alone (Prepare Children for Risks Before Travel)
There may come a time in your life when your child is going to fly somewhere on a plane and you aren't going to be there to accompany him or her. Whatever the cause for this situation, it is something which can be stressful to both parent and child. However, there are things that you can do to assist your child in being prepared to fly as an unaccompanied minor on a flight. By following these steps, you can make sure that your child is not only prepared for the situations that may arise while traveling but also that he or she is emotionally equipped to deal with the seriousness of traveling alone.
Here are the things that you can do to help your child prepare to fly alone:
- Fly somewhere with your child first. You really don't want to stick a child that has never been on a plane into the situation of flying alone. It's just too unfamiliar to really be safe for the child emotionally or physically. If you have never flown somewhere with your child in the past, you may want to think seriously about this before sending your child on a flight as an unaccompanied minor. If you have time to prepare in advance for the trip, you may want to book a short flight with your child to a neighboring city just so that he or she is familiar with the rules and requirements of flying. This may be costly but it's worth the cost if your child has never flown before and needs to fly alone for some reason.
- Discuss the situation with your child. Chances are that she has some fears about the situation so you should make sure to ask about her feelings. Do this more than once in the days leading up to the trip so that she has ample opportunity to say what's on her mind.
- Do some role playing with your child to consider what will be done in different situations. This is a fun thing for parent and child to do together and it's a great way to find solutions to flight problems before they occur. It's also a way for kids to express some of their fears about the flight that they may not be comfortable just saying out loud.
- Create a step-by-step plan for the flight and write it down. This includes the times that you're going to drop your child off at the airport, all of the flight information and the information the child needs for getting picked up from the destination airport. It should also include an emergency plan outlining what is to be done in case a flight is missed or delayed as well as what to do if the pick-up person doesn't arrive at the airport. You should go over this with your child but also make sure he has a written copy with him on the plane.
- Make sure that your child knows how to find someone to ask questions of when they're in the airport and on the plane. Take your child to the airport and point out where the customer service people are located at. Make sure that your child has memorized their own airline so that they can easily find the right people to ask questions. Remind your child that these are resources that adults use when they need to ask questions at airports so that your child doesn't feel like it's an immature thing to be avoided.
- Consider whether your child needs to be accompanied between flights by an employee of the airlines. If your child is an unaccompanied minor, it may be possible to have an official adult stay with your child at all times. This depends on the age of your child and the regulations of the airline that you are flying. You can call the airlines at any time to ask about this or check their website's FAQ for more information.
- Request gate passes. If your child isn't going to be doing any layovers, you may not need someone to stay with him or her. However, you might like to stay with her at the gate until the plane leaves and have someone on the other end pick her up at the gate upon arrival. Airport security regulations vary but in most cases it is possible to get a gate pass which will allow you to pass security and go wait at the gate even though you are not going on the flight with your child.
- Establish check-in times and means of checking in. You don't want to spend all day calling your child's cell phone only to find out that she turned it off. Make clear rules about your expectations for when and how your child should check in with you during the flight.
- Give your child a cell phone. This is sometimes a bone of contention for parents but it's a wise thing to do when your child is flying alone. A temporary prepaid phone is a solution for parents that don't want to give their children a cell phone to keep after the trip is over. Make sure that the cell phone is fully charged before the trip. Also make sure that it has all of the important emergency numbers that you can think of so that your child can easily call someone if a problem arises.
- Go over stranger danger. Yes, your child is probably old enough to know not to talk to strangers. It doesn't matter. In trying to be grown-up, your child may forget the rules that she follows as a kid. Make sure that you discuss the safety concerns about strangers in the airport so that it's fresh in her mind. She's listening even if she acts like she doesn't want to hear it.
- Pack something into the carry-on that reminds him or her that you're not far away. A favorite blanket or book, a gift to be opened only once she's sitting on the plane or any other little thing like that is something that will help your child deal with the emotions of being on the plane.
Having a child fly alone on an airplane isn't an ideal situation. Being separated from your child, especially when doing something as foreign as traveling, is always difficult. But if you prepare your child in advance for the trip, you should be able to rest easy knowing that things are going to be just fine until he or she returns.