If you’re flying with kids, it’s good for them to be aware of what’s going to happen at airport security. Feather Berkower, founder of Parenting Safe Children, shares body-safety conversation tips for talking with your children about airport security, x-ray machines, and pat downs.
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Airport Security and Flying with Kids
#1. Talk with children about airport and airplane rules
With young children (< age 8), have this conversation on the way to the airport. With older children (ages 8+), you can have the conversation further in advance if you wish.
Language for young children: “People who work at airports have rules we must follow just like at home, school, and other places. These rules keep everyone safe.”
#2. Compare airport safety to other kinds of safety
Language for young children: “Just like you have to sit in your car seat when we drive or wear a helmet when you ride your bike, there are certain rules at the airport.”
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#3. To make the topic of safety less scary, weave in general safety expectations
Language for young children: “On the plane, we stay in our seats unless we are using the toilet. We keep our seat belt on at all times.”
#4. Explain to children what to expect
Language for young children: “We’ll check our bags and then we’ll stand in a line where we have to take off our shoes, jackets and belts. Then we’ll go through a metal detector or x-ray machine. In addition, a person who works at the airport and wears a uniform may have to touch our bodies over our clothes to make sure we are safe to get on the airplane.”
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#5. Answer questions directly and simply
Provide more details if your children are older and ask more questions.
Language for young children: For instance, if a child asks why there are x-ray machines – “Because no one is allowed to take a knife or scissors or nail clippers on airplanes, and sometimes people forget to leave them home.”
#6. If a pat down is requested, use this as a teachable moment to assert the body-safety rule on touching private parts
Language for young children: “We’ve talked about body-safety rules and you know that no one is allowed to touch the private areas of your body except when the doctor needs to examine you and Mom or Dad is in the room with you. Well, this is another exception. The airport person may need to touch your body over your clothes. This is the only time someone can do this at the airport and I will be with you.”
#7. As always, try to make prevention fun
You might play a “what if game” to reinforce body safety at the airport, while including other situations as well.
- “What if someone else in the airport tried to touch your body—what would you say and do?”
- “What if your babysitter wanted you to keep a secret—what would you say and do?”
- “What if a kid at school wanted to look at your private parts in the bathroom—what would you say and do?”
The answer to all of these questions is the same:
1. Say “NO!”
2. Go tell a trusted adult.
Feather Berkower, LCSW, is founder of the Parenting Safe Children, the PSC Online Workshop and co-author of Off Limits, a parenting book that will change the way you think about keeping kids safe.
Feather has educated over 100,000 schoolchildren, parents, and professionals. She makes a difficult topic less scary, and empowers parents and communities to keep children safe. You can also follow Parenting Safe Children on Facebook.
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