Mayo Clinic: A few months ago my 12-year-old daughter and I
were on a flight that had significant turbulence, which was
really upsetting for her. Since then, she has had nightmares
about the flight and has told me almost daily that she will
never fly again. We have a wedding coming up that will require
us to fly, and she insists she will not go. What can I say to
her that will help calm her fears? Should I have her evaluated
by a psychologist?
daughterís situation is not unusual. Itís common for
children to develop fears, particularly in response to an
unsettling experience. There are a number of steps you can
take at home to help her better understand and become more
familiar with what she fears. As that happens, itís likely
her fear will become less overwhelming and, even if it doesnít
go away completely, she may be able to manage it more
as you work with your daughter to help her manage her fear of
flying, remain calm and encouraging. Keep all your
interactions about this topic warm and supportive. Let her
know you care about her and you want to help her.
reassure her that what sheís going through is normal.
Everyone is afraid of something. Thereís nothing wrong with
being scared going into a situation that frightened you in the
past. Itís perfectly reasonable to be afraid of flying when
you had a bad experience on a plane. But, that doesnít mean
you have to avoid the situation. In fact, avoidance may make
it worse. There are ways to lessen our fears.
way to help manage fear is to get more information about whatís
causing it. To help your daughter do this, provide her with
basic information about the overall safety of flying. Use
reliable sources that she can read or refer to on her own. Donít
simply say, "Flying is safe. Donít worry about
it." Unless you are a pilot or an aviation expert, your
word probably is not enough to reassure her at this time.
Also, educate her about what turbulence is and what causes it.
Understanding why something happens can make it more
predictable and understandable. And, that makes it less scary.
help your daughter become less anxious when she thinks about
flying by facing her fears, rather than avoiding them. Try to
find videos that show turbulence. Watch them by yourself first
to make sure they are appropriate for your daughter to see.
Then, show them to her. Watch them with her over and over
again until they get boring. This type of exposure to a
fear-producing situation in a safe environment gradually can
reduce anxiety about the situation overall.
take the same approach to your daughterís nightmares. Ask
her to tell you in detail about her disturbing dreams. Then,
have her write down everything she can remember about those
dreams. Review the details, and talk with her about her dreams
until they no longer elicit a fearful response.
examining and better understanding whatís making her afraid,
you are helping your daughter see that she can manage her
fear. It might not take away her fear of flying completely,
and she may still feel uncomfortable about getting on a plane,
but, by going through these steps with her, you help her
reduce the power fear has over her.
try these techniques and your daughter still remains extremely
fearful of flying, consider making an appointment for her with
a psychologist who has experience working with children and
adolescents dealing with anxiety.