It’s been months in the making, the perfect family vacation. You've thought of everything... The hotel is booked, the kids' friendly events are planned, restaurants are mapped out, all the travel has been confirmed - and then it hits you. I'm about to put my two kids in a confined space, with fifty to sixty strangers. For hours. With limited access to private time out areas, not to mention bathrooms. Have I lost my mind?!?
A Temper Tantrum On A Plane Can Be Handled
Now panic has set in. There's a couple of things you know for sure will happen. You have the baby in his car seat, strapped in looking so sweet. Your toddler is quietly coloring while everyone is boarding the plane. And then it happens... Little Johnnie makes a deposit in the diaper bank that rivals anything he's ever surprised you with before, both in consistency (you may need steel wool for this little prize), and location (oh that cute little Polo onesie's a goner). The smell is reminiscence of a chicken coop. All this, just as the plane takes off. Oh, and Sally, your beautiful, high spirited two-year-old, who doesn’t believe the word “no” applies to her? She'll be unbuckled and standing in her seat screaming with joy as soon as the wheels leave the runway.
At this point, in addition to your mental breakdown, the temper tantrum Sally is so anxious to have will come in tune with Johnny’s ears adjusting to the altitude. Here are five easy ways to manage temper tantrums on the plane without ending up on the six o’clock news.
The Mission: Prevention
1. Distraction: When Sally wants to run up and down the aisle and you tell her "no", before the screaming starts is when you break out the technology. Cell phone video, tablet, anything electronic. It’s important not to start with the electronics in the airport or during boarding. You lose your power of distraction and they are bored with it prior to the flight. There's a good chance you can get a good hour or two from this, so use it wisely.
2. Food: Make sure to bring their favorite treats. Remember, you are bribing them.
3. Play: This one's a really effective method. A lot of times, if you engage your toddler in a game, they're so happy to be playing with you that they won't be studying other things on the plane to get into.
4. Sleep: Weeks before your trip, begin a new routine at nap time. Introduce a lullaby that you can find on your phone, and consistently play it while you're laying them down. Then on the plane, while they're playing on your phone or tablet, play it for them. This will trigger the memory of sleep.
5. Read: Read to Sally and Johnnie, quietly of course. The passengers around you will appreciate your voice much more than your little bundles of joy, I promise.
Now you're armed with some simple tips on how to prevent the temper tantrum, but what do you do if it comes in full blown despite your best efforts? I'm talking the whole gamut - crying, screaming, kicking. This is a bit harder to manage, but it can be done.
Next Mission: Containment
1. Stay calm. Easier said than done, I know. But you have to try and stay calm. Otherwise there are two of you having a meltdown. While your partner watches Johnnie, take Sally to the bathroom. You have about four minutes of this little nightmare, but time out in the cubicle the airline calls a bathroom can be just as effective as it is at home.
2. Enlist help. People around you are not happy about traveling with children on a plane, but there is someone on that plane that understands. As for the rest of the passengers who don't understand? Well, sometimes a sideways glance from grumpy grumperson goes a long way to make Sally clam up.
And keep this thought in mind when every muscle in your body is tense for the entire flight. Adults on these flights can be just as bad as, if not worse than, your temper-tantrum-having toddler. There are adults on your flight right now that probably haven’t showered in days. There's the talkative girl who is so excited and can't stop talking about college this year. Someone on your plane is sitting next to a sleeper that snores and drools. A trust me, a hangover is in there somewhere too. But none of these people will make any apologizes for their behavior. You, on the other hand, will have whispered the words “I’m really sorry” no less than a gazillion times.
Keep in mind the plane lands and you will depart, never to see these people - ever again. This flight will be just a memory... A funny story to tell when your little ones are grown. Although there were times the thought of putting them in the overhead compartment really looked like an option, you still made it through and lived, sanity intact, to tell about it.