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Aug 25, 2016 · Mayo Clinic Q and A: Children's Fears After Unsettling Experiences

Fears are, of course, not uncommon in children. But fear of flying develops, in my experience, only when there is a problem in the parent-child relationship, for is a child trusts its parents, when the parents plan a flight, the question of safety does not arise.

Turbulence: information about turbulence is good, but an intellectual approach will not regulate emotional response when stress hormones are released by the amygdala when the plane drops.

Exposure: having treated flight phobia for 35 years, both as an airline captain and as a licensed therapist, I have yet to see desensitization hold up for passengers. First, desensitization is hard to achieve. The fact that one flight arrives safely proves nothing about the next flight. Second, if a person does not fly frequently, the amygdala forgets the person has ever flown and reacts to flying as previously.

Emotional regulation is, as Allen Schore has pointed out, “relationship dependent.” I fully agree that consulting a psychologist is wise, for if the parent-child relationship problem is not addressed and corrected, the child will not learn to regulate arousal in a healthy way.