Showing How to Help Kids Overcome Fear of Flying


As with adults, fear of flying in kids is an irrational phobia which can be mitigated with relaxation techniques. The hard part is making them understand what they should do to calm down. So how better than telling them a story?

Laura was a girl who dreamed of travelling and discovering the world, but she found her aerophobia holding her back – every time the date of a plane trip got closer, her heart would start racing and she would be overtaken by doubts.

One day Laura was at an airport gate waiting area, ready to board her flight, when she met an older man who seemed calm and confident. Curious, she walked over and struck up a conversation. It turned out that the man, named Tomás, had had a terrible fear of turbulence but, after trying different strategies and tricks he´d finally hit on something very simple that helped him calm down quite a bit – and he was willing to share it with Laura.

Tomás began by noting that it was nothing revolutionary or even that special, but rather simply straightforward: whenever his plane hits a patch of turbulence, he focuses on two things, keeping his attention inward, on his breathing, and consciously connecting with the fact that pilots are rigorously trained to handle these situations and that the aircraft is carefully designed to be as safe as possible.

Laura was a bit skeptical, but decided to try it on the flight she was about to catch. As it took off, she again felt her anxiety start to set in – especially once the plane hit a patch of turbulence. Then, remembering Tomás´ words, she closed her eyes and began to breathe deeply, inhaling slowly through her nose and exhaled gently through her mouth. As she concentrated on her breathing, she felt how even though her worry was still there her body relaxed and her mind gradually calmed.

Suddenly over the inflight public address system came the voice of the pilot reporting flight conditions and expected turbulence. Laura remembered Tomás’ words and repeated to herself: “I am safe and protected, the pilots know what he is doing.” She took comfort in remembering that she was in good hands and that the flight would continue without problems – helping to undermine the credibility of the catastrophic thoughts that were coming to her mind.

Right after landing she realised that this time her fear had not paralysed her but had become a challenge that she was determined to overcome. And this was a big mindset change for her.

Grateful for having been given the opportunity to try what Tomas had advised, she left the airport behind and excitedly headed for the adventures that awaited her.

Happy flying!

Founder of the Lanzas InstituteDavid Lanzas is a psychologist specialising in anxiety and trauma.