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My parents are moving to Florida soon and have asked for my help moving their car. I thought it would be nice to take my pre-teen daughter (almost 12 yo) with me on the ride down for a short visit. However, we would need to fly home, and she appears to have developed a fear of flying.

I do not know the source or nature of the fear. She has never flown. Three years ago when I flew to Mexico she was jealous that I got to fly and loved the pictures from the plane. Over the past few years she seemed to develop a minor concern that has now turned into a sizable fear, though I wouldn't call it a phobia at this point.

She's got decent math skills so we sat down and looked at the accident statistics together to address any ration fears. Over the past year I've always tried to speak positively of flying, and about how cool it is to be up there and see the world from above the clouds, to create a positive association with it. I've asked her directly what she's afraid of but she's unable to articulate it, which isn't unusual at that age.

I have a feeling she's going to agree to go either way. However, I would like to make the process as easy as possible on her, avoid her worrying about the flight home all trip, and most of all get to experience the positives of flying. Leading to the title question: How can I assuage her fears about flying.

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I've flown dozens of times, and although I'm a fully-grown adult, I don't get warm fuzzies about it. Unless it starts interfering with your daughter's life - refusing to go on this trip might count, if she actually wants to go - then maybe just tell her that, sometimes, grown-ups have to do scary things. –  Patrick87 Aug 23 at 10:07
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Wikipedia's Transportation safety in the United States is an interesting read. It asserts that on a flight from Boston MA to Washington DC, you are roughly five times more likely to die in a car accident on the way to the airport than you are on the plane itself. –  tobyink Aug 31 at 8:29

3 Answers 3

Has she ever flown before (post-toddler years)? If not, then that's the first step: fly. I probably fell into the category she falls into for years; I flew only twice as a child that I can remember, at 6 and 10, and so when I went off to college (far enough to have to fly each semester back and forth), I had a mild fear of flying.

It only went away when I'd flown several times, and just got used to it. It never was enough to make me not fly, but I still choose driving over flying when it's remotely logical to do so, undoubtedly illogically at times.

For me at least, the problem is that I tend to not be able to accept things I don't completely comprehend. Add to that the fact that I don't have the ability to visualize systems very well, and despite my strong math/science background and good understanding of the various concepts that underly manned flight, for years I didn't completely, at the lowest level, believe flying really would work. That meant that little turbulences and such would make me think the whole sham was breaking up.

I dealt with that by remembering statistics, by remembering that it really does work despite my lack of core belief in the mechanics, but most of all by seeing all of the people around me not worried. That wasn't perfect, sometimes bad turbulence would occur and worry some of the other passengers or there would be a more-phobic person on the plane, but in general I was able to convince myself that the other 200 people on the plane were rational people also, and their lack of fear meant I didn't need to worry.

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Thank you for the comments. She has never flown before. You touched upon an excellent point. We talked briefly about how planes work, but never in depth. Perhaps she does have an underlying 'disbelief' in flight. I'll try bringing up the subject of lift, air pressure, and those sorts of things. May be tough to grasp at that age, but worth a shot. :) –  Nicholas Aug 22 at 19:20

Typically, the more you know about something, the less you are afraid by it.

No matter how much math, theory and statistics you throw at it, nothing beats actually living the experience of it.

EAA Young Eagle Program allows youngster to actually fly in an aircraft with a qualified pilot.

http://www.eaa.org/en/eaa/aviation-education-and-resources/eaa-youth-education/eaa-young-eagles-program

This program is free of charge, althrough if she loves it, you might be in to pay for some flying lessons by the time she is 16th.

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That's an excellent suggestion. Unfortunately, given that our trip is next month, I don't think there is time to go down this route. –  Nicholas Aug 22 at 19:17
    
Give it a try. Might be worth the 5 minutes phone call. –  Vincent Hubert Aug 25 at 14:47

As an airline captain and licensed therapist I have specialized in treating flight phobia for 30 years. The average age of onset is 27 when, as an adult, one faces the fact of being vulnerable and - on ones own - cannot control every threat.

When a child develops this problem precousiously it is a clear indication that what Winnicut called "the holding environment" provided is nor secure enough. This points to the need to work with a therapist to find and remedy the relationship problems that are not providing emotional security.

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Are you saying that the girl doesn't feel safe in her family? I'm glad to hear from a professional but I have to say that I feel this response is way over the top, suggesting therapy work right off the bat without suggesting or attempting any easier and less drastic alternives first. As a professional, could you give some such alternatives too? –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Aug 24 at 7:20

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