Flying Without Fear
Good|July 2017

Airplane anxiety is understandable – but if you’re suffering in front of your children, you could unwittingly be passing your fears on to them. Here, Dubai’s experts offer their advice for creating a family of fret-free frequent flyers…

With school holidays upon us, it’s mass exodus season. For many of us, that means flights out of here. And while plenty of children look forward to the journey much as the holiday itself, for some young passengers, airports, aircraft and flights bring a sense of unease. So what can we do, as parents, to help our little ones fly confidently?

First and foremost, says Dubai-based life coach, hypnotherapist and author Russell Hemmings, try to understand why your child is showing signs of anxiety about flying. “If you have a fear of flying and become anxious prior to and during a flight, it’s highly likely your children will pick up on your distress and will follow suit,” he says.

Dr Amy Bailey, child psychologist at Dubai clinic Kids First, agrees. “Children develop anxiety about flying for many different reasons, but one of the most common is through observing a parent’s fear of flying,” she says.

It could be something as simple as the child’s natural anxious tendencies, says Dr Bailey, or even the fact it’s something a bit different, but all reasons are equally valid. Hemmings also suggests difficulty understanding how aircraft actually fly, worrying about being in a confined space and not being able to do anything about it, previous bad experiences or hearing negative stories about flying could all have an impact.

If your own fear of flying is the root cause of your child’s fear, you’ll need to deal with it, or at least employ a coping strategy that has little or no negative impact on how the child perceives your behaviour, says Hemmings. Examples he suggests include walking around the terminal retail space – more enjoyable and normal for your children than seeing you sitting with your head in your hands – or using common stress-busters such as exercise, mindfulness techniques or rhythmic deep breathing.

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