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Handling misbehaving kids on planes

Your guest's commentary on crying kids on planes, which I listened to today on your broadcast via 90.9 WETA here in the DC area was as full of wisdom - as it was devoid of information. It is improbable that many of us will get a good night's sleep or much work done via empathy, helping parents and entertaining their kids.

Here are some more substantive and practical suggestions:

- Ear Plugs: There are many types. I personally like the EAR plugs - wax impregnated foam, soft, friendly yellow, you can sleep in them, read in them, and by not getting hyper over noise nobody can control, you contribute an aura of calm

- For more technologically inclined, several companies make noise canceling headsets. These create a sound field equal and opposite to the noise reaching yours ears, and very effectively cancel it. You can also pipe your own or the airplane's music into the headphones. But even without masking sounds, the noise cancellation is remarkable

- The reasons children cry are many and varied. But one reason they cry is from ear pain caused by altitude changes. Most adults learn, often subconsciously, to breathe, swallow or move their jaws to equalize pressure as the plane climbs and descends. But young children sometimes don't, especially if they are congested from a cold or other illness. I feel terrible when I see a child obviously in pain while the parent believes the child is reacting to boredom or fear. I'm not a physician, but I'm confident a pediatrician can provide advice that will protect the child's health and the parent's and passengers' hearing.

- Mental attitude. A crying child can be truly aggravating if you fixate on it. On the other hand, a crying child is a normal, healthy part of human life. It's fun in a way. To some extent, a bit of crying is as healthy as laughing, as rain falling on the roof, or as traffic noise coming in the window of a hotel room in New York. I'm not glad a child is crying, I remember crying as a child with less than sweet melancholy. But I try to see it as a part of real life, and I try to be glad to be alive and a part of that process, even if only as a passive recipient of the sounds.

- Children do not cry for hours. They seem to cry for hours, and in large groups maybe they can tag team. But generally a crying spell is measured in minutes. Ten minutes max. If you travel a lot, you wear a watch. Look at it. Add 20 minutes. You can guarantee yourself that the child will be virtually silent by then. Knowing the discomfort - the child's as well as yours - is temporary helps a lot.

I hope this helps - it couldn't hurt!




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