There’s something about traveling in a small capsule, with rows of discerning strangers and forced silence that creates the perfect conditions for an airplane tantrum. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a plane journey without some form of tantrum (mostly my kids, occasionally me). Here are a few tips on how to manage them:
1. Make sure your kids are well rested on the day of travel. Having an overtired toddler is a surefire catalyst for a tantrum. If I’m flying late at night, I try to give a longer lunchtime nap and will still do our usual bedtime routine before we leave for the airport. If you’re planning to be at the airport during a naptime, don’t check in your buggy but keep it with you until you get to the gate. For children ages 20 months and under, a baby carrier is indispensable! I’ve spent many a flight pacing the aisles, soothing a screaming toddler by jiggling them to sleep in a baby carrier.
2. Pack lots of distractions in your hand luggage. If your toddler is screaming, perhaps a cartoon will calm them down or their favourite toy. When all else fails, snacks are usually the answer.
3. Is your child in pain? Some children are more sensitive to the changes in pressure during take off and landing. Having your child drink from a bottle or breastfeed will help equalise their ears. For older kids who don’t drink milk, chewy sweets or lollipops are always good (plus a useful way of keeping them quiet!).
Always pack medicine in your hand luggage. Sometimes a soothing dose of a med like Calpol/Panadol can help calm a child.
4. Is your child hungry or thirsty? I pack lots of healthy snacks to dole out and often find they diffuse a tantrum. Always pack more milk bottles than you think you need. If you need your milk warmed, ask for assistance with this as soon as you get onboard to pre-empt a hunger tantrum.
5. Dress your baby/children in comfortable layers. You may find the cabin temperature (which can range from stuffy to arctic) is making your child uncomfortable and contributing to a tantrum. Try removing some clothes to see if that helps or change their seating position.
6. I find older children respond better to threats and bribery. When mine start throwing a tantrum onboard I simply pick up the remote control, pretend to press buttons and announce I’m calling the Captain. This is usually met with a ‘noooo please don’t’ which I then reward with ‘well stop crying, behave and I’ll give you a snack’.
7. Sometimes there is nothing you can do and you just have to let them cry it out. I’m a strong believer that the calmer the parent, the calmer the child. Ignore all the passengers (they were once children!) and just let your child get on with it. If the seatbelt signs are switched off, try walking around the plane to see if that helps.
Happy travels, mama!