CNN recently reported about the behavior of young children while traveling, posing the question, “How young is too young to travel?” Kevin Leman, a psychologist and parenting expert, discusses his experiences with children in flight and the actions that have been done to help the situation at hand.
Leman is a frequent flyer, as he is traveling to and from for speaking engagements. He says that a child will act out on his flight at least once a week. Leman once saw a child throwing a tantrum so extreme that it attracted the attention of a flight attendant. Before the child and his mother could reach their seats, the flight attendant had already notified the captain who then ordered the family off of the plane. Leman says that it is up to the parent to set limits for their child before traveling in order to control their behavior once they’re in the air.
“The parent you are in the ground is the parent you’re going to be on the airplane,” says Leman. “Do you have a game plan? If you do, you’re going to have a kid who will sit in an airplane, entertain himself and not be a pain to other customers on the plane.”
We know how many travelers feel about the behavior of children that are on-board, but what do the children’s parents think?
CNN asked some of their readers to share their experiences of jet-setting with little ones. For mom Almira Coronado, traveling with her 7-year-old daughter, Michelle, is not only pleasant, but it is beneficial for broadening her daughter’s mind. She and her husband have taken their daughter on trips to foreign countries since she was only a few months old.
“Traveling enables people to be more open-minded, you get out of your comfort zone, experience unique things, meet different people, hear/speak a different language,” reported Coronado.
Coronado teaches Michelle about the places they plan to visit before actually embarking on the trip — that way, her daughter can get excited to travel. She has also told Michelle that she could ask her parents about anything she saw that she didn’t understand.
Other parents, like Coronado, have taught their children how to adapt in different situations and how to handle changes in plan. These are the parents that have successful travels with their children and can tell you a number of ways that going abroad has positively impacted their child’s life.
But the question of “how young is too young” still remains. Alan Kazdin, who is author of “The Everyday Parenting Toolkit,” a Yale University psychology professor, and a director at the university’s Parenting Center, agrees with Leman on his belief in parenting. Both men believe that the parents play one of the biggest roles in deciding whether or not a child is ready to travel.
Kazdin says that an organized parent who can calmly handle roadblocks, like a change in flight plans, is able to teach those behaviors to a child. However, a parent who is easily agitated or panicked maybe have a harder time. Their frantic behavior is likely to be passed onto the child, thus resulting in a trip that’s like a ticking time bomb — ready to go off at any moment, should something go wrong.
We know some of you were wishing for an answer like, “there’s a way to cure all screaming children” or “there’s going to be a new law about travel ages,” but that is not the case. There will always be tantrums on your flight, even if it’s from a hotheaded adult who has the only broken TV in the row. Truth is, there’s no stopping it. You just have to learn to maneuver around the obstacles. For parents, it’s important to learn when you and your child are ready to travel, based on the behavior of both of you. Also, try and plan flights that won’t cause a cranky child to cry for hours on end (like a PM flight instead of one at sunrise). As for everyone else, try planning a kid-free trip by flying early in the day or at a time when it’s not a school break. Your chances of running into a tantrum-throwing child will be much less.
That, or headphones usually do the trick.