Recently, we headed off for a vacay with our two daughters, and for once I was looking forward to the flight. Our kids are past the diaper stage, they can reliably enter the brain-mush zone of the on-flight entertainment system (which allows me to catch up on my reading), and the oldest can even pack for herself. “This’ll be a breeze,” I thought.
It wasn’t until we had downed our requisite Starbucks drinks and made it into the security “holding area” that the trouble began. I was standing on the other side of that security thingy that sounds an alarm if you forgot a dime in the lining of a jacket.
As the security officer looked through my toiletry bag, the shrieking began. My five-year old was paralyzed with fear at the idea of walking through the metal detector, screaming at the top of her ample lungs.
Getting kids through security without incident doesn’t have to be this stressful. With a little prep and a few rules, you can ensure this part of your journey runs as smoothly as security will allow.
Car seat shuffle
If your child is still in a car seat and you are carrying it on the plane (either alone or attached to a stroller) be prepared to remove your wee one from the car seat once you head through security. Yes, I know you just got him settled. Yes, I know this is his normal naptime and he was up all night teething. I feel your anguish, I really do. Security does not. Don’t even think about trying to convince them to let him stay put.
In hindsight, I realize I could have prepared my daughter for the trip by pretending to go through the security procedures at home beforehand (she’d been clearing security since she was still in above-mentioned car seat, so who knew?).
Sometimes a chat about what to expect at security, with the help of a book or with role-playing will ease fears. Just make sure you cover this off well before you’re ready to pack your bags.
Trying to convince my daughter to pretend that the security device was a “castle covered with beautiful flowers and you are a princess” didn’t wash once she was purple-faced and popping ear drums with her caterwauling.
Prepare for tough questions
It’s my own fault. I made the mistake of commenting to my older daughter about how much easier it was to clear security before September 11. The inevitable questions followed and after a rather glossed-over, watered down explanation, she understands why we’re not allowed to joke about carrying a weapon and also why I can’t listen attentively to the minutiae of her latest fairy story as we are clearing security.
Still, giving too much detail about the myriad reasons for stepped-up security will likely foster unnecessary fear in a sensitive child such as mine. She’ll be hitting puberty soon and I can only imagine how she’ll feel about the full-body scanner.
And how did I finally persuade my youngest to join me on the other side of security gate (while her dad and the ever-lengthening line-up waited behind her)? The security guard let me go back and carry her through (usually a no-no at this age). Sobbing, frazzled and sweaty, we made it through, just as the other security guard finished looking through our carry-on luggage.
Photo by Miki Yoshihito