By Priscilla J. Dunstan, McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Airport lines for tickets, luggage and security are trying to even the most patient adult. For a young child these lines can be scary, over whelming and unbearable. Be sure to help your child through this very necessary process by accommodating their dominant sense.
Traveling is exciting especially to a tactile child. The very thought of physically getting on an airplane, to go somewhere new, makes them giddy and bounce up and down with excitement. Because of this, tactile children can be hard to manage, especially when it comes to security lines, passport checks and the endless waiting. Games like Simon Says — stand on one foot, put your hands on your head, touch your nose with your tongue — are a good for keeping your little one active without actually moving too much. Consider letting them have their own bag on wheels, as your tactile child will love the physical job of pulling the bag and will appreciate something to sit on when the lines get long. Make sure that before and in-between flights you try to wear them out, by either lots of walking or by using one of the kids’ playgrounds many airports have.
Playing games such as I Spy and, if older, getting them to watch out for flight numbers and counting the number of people with blue shoes, will help to distract your visual child from the boring process of waiting in line. While visual children are easily entertain in their seats by activities like coloring books, paper dolls or airplanes and watching movies, the check-in, security and boarding lines will be another story, and they will find them overwhelming. Crowds can make a young child very claustrophobic and the many security barriers can give a visual child a real sense of no return. As you move to the security scanner, point out where the bags come out, and assure them their bag of favorite toys will be fine – before putting the bags on the belt. If the TSA does open a bag, allow your visual child some time to put their things back and make sure everything is OK.
Your auditory child will be highly sensitive to the upset vocal tone and agitated voices of those around them. When there is an angry person, try to make light of it by saying, “Perhaps she didn’t have breakfast” or “Maybe he’s running late.” Try playing 20 Questions, (five for young children) where your child thinks of a person, place or thing and you get 20 questions to figure it out; then reverse, allowing your child to ask the questions. Or ask questions such as “What sound does a chicken make?” and switch the animals around. Expect your auditory child to ask about every announcement, and question if indeed what you’ve said is right. The more anxious they become, the more they are to repeat questions. Plan on providing a running narration of your trip through security, describing every stage of the process; leave time for conversation and soothing. When all else fails, singing softly or pulling out you iPod will offer a distraction.
Airports can tend to bring out the worst in your taste and smell child especially if they are tired or hungry. They can tend to be nervous rather than excited by travel, as they find it hard to transition leaving one place to go to another and check points such as security and customs tend to make their anxiety worse. References to similarities in normal life will help. For example, when lining up for security, comment on how this is like lining up for an ice cream at the beach, or like sitting on a bus or this is like lining up at school. Allow then to hold a comfort teddy or blanky and to ware their favorite T-shirt or article of clothing, and be patient with their clinginess. They will be upset when teddy gets put through the scanner and will burst into tears when the line of people gets too busy. Patience with these children is a must, and remembering that they aren’t being bad, they are just scared.
Priscilla J. Dunstan is a child and parenting behavior expert and consultant and the author of “Child Sense.” Learn more about Priscilla and her parenting discoveries at www.childsense.com.