WASHINGTON, September 16, 2012 – The recent story of a child who was lost during a flight layover while traveling without parents may seem like good grounds not to let your kids get on a plane without you. However, the reason that story made the news is because it is an anomaly, most times unaccompanied minors make it to their destination safe and sound.
My daughter has been flying unaccompanied since she was 8. Recently, my son started flying with her, at the age of 9. Letting my children take this step has allowed them to spend summers with my family on the west coast and visit their dad in North Carolina on a regular basis.
I’ve learned some things along the way. If you’re thinking of letting your kids fly, here are some tips I’ve picked up.
Know the policies of the airlines. This seems like a no brainer, right? You’d be surprised. What constitutes an Unaccompanied Minor? Do they allow connecting flights, and, if so, how will they get there? Once when sending my daughter from Raleigh, NC to Portland, OR she had to change planes in Dulles. A little scary for me, but I was assured that a flight attendant would escort her from the plane to the next gate. They did, and it was great.
Except a few years later on Southwest and my son’s first time flying – going from Baltimore to Portland, OR. There would be a connection in Denver, and nope, no help. My daughter was an experienced flier by then, but even she was worried so that brings me to my next point –
Point out uniforms. What do the flight attendants and pilots look like? What are they wearing? What are security officers wearing? Helping kids identify people in authority will make them feel like they always know someone can be asked if trouble arrives. Even the crankiest of flight attendants won’t snap at a child asking for help. And if they need help-
Ask. Ask. Ask. We have taught our kids to avoid ‘stranger danger’, but have we taught them to ask for help? Are they too afraid of what a stranger might do to them to approach someone? Here is my personal philosophy; I have taught my kids how to fight back, and respond to uncomfortable situations, therefore that should give them the confidence to approach someone if they need help.
I absolutely demand my kids have a measure of independence and confidence; those two traits are far more valuable than being scared of the possibility that the strange man may be a molester.
Don’t let your fear rub on your kids. It is an absolute blessing that my kids have never had to fly with me. I hate flying, and only get on those tin cans with copious amounts of Xanax and alcohol. However, when I take my kids to the airport, I exude confidence. I explain security procedures, and never, ever utter a word about how much I hate planes and flying. Instead, I make sure they know how long they are going to be a plane and who will meet them.
Don’t let your kids be jerks. My kids have fights that seriously start with “He looked at me wrong.” At home, I can send them to separate corners, but on the plane they are stuck. I tell them ‘not to fight’, ‘read books’, always follow what the flight attendants tell them, be polite, and not to bother people. I make sure they have backpacks full of books and handheld games (iPods and Nintendo DSs). I feed them before they get on the plane (no sugary drinks!) and stay until the plane is wheels up.
And last, enjoy your time away from your children. I know I do. I love my kids more than anything, but it is stressful being a single parent. These breaks from the constant parenting are the things that keep me going.
I have had nothing but success with my kids and their flying solo adventures. I encourage you not to let the recent story stop you from letting your kids fly. Stories of kids getting lost are incredibly rare, and to date, no one has been injured or died. I have never regretted letting my kids get on a plane, and you won’t either.
Baltimore based, Amy Phillips is a columnist, blogger, public speaker, twitter addict and all around nerd.
Follow Amy on Twitter @amydpp.
Amy Phillips is an independent writer for the Communities. Read more from Amy at her Accidental Musings blog.
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