We recently posted an article to help parents travelling with young children. It was inspired by a New York Times article suggesting that adults with kids on planes should hand out goody bags to warm up fellow travellers. My question after reading this: Why are you apologizing? As you might guess, I am anti-goody bag.
That doesn’t mean that I too haven’t wished the baby in 21c hadn’t picked this flight for the 7-hr meltdown, only that instead of dwelling on “my luck,” I’ve instead recalled how tough it can be to travel with young kids.
I’m no saint. I want to have an easy, quiet and quick journey as much as my fellow travelers, but I know that really there isn’t much you can do when a baby starts to act like a baby. Instead, I’ve been happy to see more and more people reach out a hand instead of a disparaging look.
They may not be your children, but you can choose how you respond and how you contribute to the environment. You are, after all, literally stuck for the long haul. Why not make it the best possible experience for all?
4 Tips for Coping with Kids on Planes (When They Aren’t Your Own)
Don’t make a face or snide comment. Offer a smile instead.
Smiles go a long way to soothing the nerves of parents, and the jitters of kids. With a smile, you make yourself an ally not an enemy in one simple gesture. A child is learning how to behave. Use your smile to demonstrate your patience, and your understanding that they are doing the best they can.
Remember, just like the man in front of you who reclined fully, children have a right to be on the plane.
This isn’t your private plane. You haven’t invited anyone into your home. Those around you, children included, are fellow travellers who need to get to a destination just like you. It may feel like an invasion of your personal space, either in proximity or noise level, but shift that thinking to accept that this isn’t about you. You’re in a shared environment and today you’re sharing it with a child. That’s life.
Do let parents know when their child is acting inappropriately.
Of course, if a child is misbehaving and this behaviour is directly impacting you, it is ok to politely and quietly let the parents know. Start with a supportive tone. Chances are the parent was unaware of how the behaviour was impacting you. A child is learning how to cope with an anxiety-producing and uncomfortable event and parents, usually exhausted, are learning too.
By simply speaking up in a polite way, you are helping the child and parent cope with the journey. If they aren’t responding to a reasonable request, by all means chat with a flight attendant who may be able to assist.
And finally, don’t expect a goody bag.
Hey, who wouldn’t love to be on the receiving end of a goody bag? But let’s be real, you aren’t two years old. Your concerns, if valid, shouldn’t be thwarted by a $2 worth of candy. You’re a grown-up. Buy your own candy (and headphones if it helps). Soothe yourself and leave parents to worry about the kids who can’t.