If you’re flying, chances are you won’t be subjected to the new TSA regulations that require full-body scans (and the full-body pat downs if you refuse or set off the scanner). Only 68 airports use the scanners, and there are only 385 scanners in the whole country.
But if you do fly out of one of the airports that has one (or if your child’s caught wind of media reports of a boy who was videotaped getting a shirtless pat-down), you may have some explaining to do. Remember: kids 12 and under who require extra screening will receive a pat-down, albeit a modified one.
Chat with your kids about it during a calm moment, before your trip. If the child is young enough to be held in Mom or Dad’s arms, then you can both go through together. But if your child is walking and talking, they may have to go through by themselves, and you should have a conversation about what to expect. We talked to child psychologist Dr. Alice Sterling Honig of Syracuse University about what you should say:
- Explain that there are bad guys (your kid already understands this) who sometimes carry guns that can hurt people. Tell him you sometimes can’t see the guns, and that is why the police are patting everyone down.
- Don’t talk about bombs with very young children because they don’t understand what they are.
- During the pat down, stay close and hold your child’s hand. Speak calmly.
- Tell your child, “I will keep you safe.” It’s important kids feel they are free from harm.
- When it’s over, thank your kid for being so good.
Then you can get on with the easy part of your trip—the flight! (Yeah, right.) Happy and safe travels, everyone.