What I learned when my children boarded a plane without me...
Updated: Oct 17, 2018
"It is surprising to notice that even from the earliest age, man finds the greatest satisfaction in feeling independent. The exalting feeling of being sufficient to oneself comes as a revelation." - Maria Montessori
It sounded like a good idea 4 months ago. People were surprised that we would let a 12 year old and a 7 year old fly alone to visit their aunt and uncle. But I was confident.
Naturally, as it got closer, I got more nervous. But a little background about us... we travel... that's what we do... any chance we get we are on a new adventure. My children have flown around the world. So they're familiar with flying and airplanes and airports.
But we never gave them a chance to practice. I mean "functional practice". They relied on us for check in, passing through security, finding the gate, boarding, etc. There was never any responsibility except knowing our contact information and our itinerary.
Teach me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn. -Benjamin Franklin
So now we found ourselves rushing to prepare the kids to do this on their own... sort of... see we set them up for success from the get go.
The foundation was in place...
We bought a direct flight, confirmed departure escort passes and arrival escort passes for the adults. I didn't want the kids walking around the airport by themselves...
But what if there was an emergency or their aunt and uncle weren't able to get to the gate before their plane landed?
The week before departure, we involved both kids in the packing, picking out their clothing, and shopping for travel essentials. We also made sure to communicate and problem solve through "what if's" and "how's". We discussed choices for reporting "tricky adults" to "safe people".
The day of departure, we made our oldest be involved at check in, lead us through security, check the flight status and guide us through the airport.
The minute they boarded and they were no longer under our wing... we wished we had taken the opportunity during our travels for functional practice.
Functional Practice is about purposeful practice prior to independence.
In order to transfer skills outside of therapy, as SLPs need to come as close as we can to recreate the tasks required of our clients in their daily routines.
It's not just about drills and exercises. It's about being mindful when we practice our emerging skills and while we retrain the brain to do the things it used to do automatically.
In my case, it wasn't about traveling... my kids had flown annually since they were infants... But it never occurred to me to take the opportunity to involve them and purposefully practice the act of traveling until they had to do it alone.