Flying And Crying: Tips for Parents

By Mike Binkley, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Around the holidays, you see more families at the airport, hoping for a peaceful flight with the kids. The other passengers are hoping for the same thing.

Surveys show a majority of flyers would prefer the option of child-free flights, or families-only sections on planes, but no airlines are offering that right now.

The sound of a child crying can reach 110 decibels — about the same as a power saw — which can be quite unpleasant in confined spaces like airplanes.

Dr. Janielle Nordell is a child behavior specialist with Hennepin County Medical Center. She says parents who are planning to fly with their children shouldn’t just show up, hoping for the best.

“You need to actually plan for the worst,” she said. “So even if your child is always very calm and you can calm them down right away, this is a new situation.”

Nordell said parents should carry on several things to distract children and keep them occupied. And parents should also make sure they don’t have a meltdown of their own.

“If you are anxious, your child is going to be anxious,” she said. “So keeping a calm, collected perspective. I know it’s a very stressful situation for everyone, but your child is going to reflect what you’re doing as well.”

For infants, she said it helps to have a bottle or pacifier to suck on, especially on take-off with the change in air pressure. Ear plugs can also help with that.

For older children, Nordell suggests doing some role-playing before the trip so they’re not surprised by all the new experiences.

And among the distractions she recommends: food, games and videos.

As far as other passengers without children, Nordell said dirty looks don’t usually help, but noise-reduction headphones can.

Several parents have written blogs about flying with children, which can give you more ideas.

More from Mike Binkley
  • Randall Cheuvront

    airlines are not going to make money excluding or restricting an entire group of paying passengers. if they tried to bar children they’d likely be sued for discrimination so just learn to suck it up because you were likely an annoying child to someone else. claims that more people would fly if children are banned is unfounded speculation.
    if anything would make my child cry (which he never has on a plane) it would be because some idiots holding up the checkpoints whining about body scans and pat downs.

  • Stephany Kinsman Wiestling

    As one of those parents who has written a blog on family vacations, here is my number one advice: Bring something chewy on the plane with you (for both take-off AND landing) to ease the ear pressure for them. If they’re old enough, a big bag of gummy life savers (we always bring enough to share). If they’re too young, give them a bottle or breastfeed. The act of swallowing along with chewing really helps. Here’s the full post on easing ear pressure and other ways to keep them comfortable (which reduces the likelihood of crying) on the plane.
    And when they cry, that helps ease the pain, too.

  • David Wassberg

    its a baby, grow up. your supposed to be the adult. I have 3 kids and I did my best to keep them quiet but sometimes you just cant. so deal with it. who wasnt a baby once and cried? right. I am sick of hearing people complain about a baby crying, and the next one that does, they might end up eating baby food thru a straw. that baby doesnt know whats going on and cant do anything about what is making them unhappy. dont like it? dont listen. bring your own ear plugs or stay home you jerk. and complaining about a crying baby? thats a sign of stupidity. its like complaining that its raining out. or complaining that the sun is shining. grow up

  • David Wassberg

    Did anyone see the family guy episode clip they used in this news report? the baby sits down behind the guy and doesn’t make a sound. the guy starts conplaining and babys making noise, the baby heard him so he started crying and kicking the seat just to annoy him. pretty funny

  • Flying Free « Sunflower Girl
  • K. Emerson

    I agree with David. Kids are unpredictable. Parents do what they can to keep them calm for the sanity of everyone, including the child. Just remember, the child doesn’t want to be upset anymore than you want to hear him/her crying. Sometimes, adults, we have to remember that everything isn’t “all about me”. Compassion, empathy, understanding all need to be a part of this. Really, flights are just a few hours out of your life…even across the world, they don’t last forever. Suck it up and waste time complaining about things that are more important in the world.

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