Explain the rationale behind security checkpoints

March 21, 2003|by LISA TEDRICK PREJEAN

"Are these the people who are going to ask us to lift up our shirts, Mommy?"

As we neared the airport security checkpoint, my 4-year-old's confident concern told me two things:

1. She paid attention when her father and I role-played what may happen before we board the plane.

2. We made the right decision by showing our children what security personnel may do. (Ask them to remove their shoes or belt, lift their arms for a wand search, untuck their shirts, etc.)

You've probably heard about the changes in airport security since the beginning of this year. If you've flown, you may have experienced being pulled out of line during a random search.

It's slightly embarrassing for adults. If we feel uncomfortable in that situation, just think how children may respond. We know why our privacy is being invaded: For the protection of all. Our children need to understand this as well.


That thought was planted in my head during an interview with Carol Baicker-McKee, a clinical psychologist and author of two parenting books, "FussBusters at Home" and "FussBusters on the Go."

She recommended a role-play, and I'm glad I followed through with her advice. Our children were initially a little frightened as we neared the security line, but I think they appreciated knowing what was going on.

Be prepared to show your driver's license or other photo identification several times. Children do not need photo IDs.

Besides increased security checkpoints, another change since the first of the year is that checked luggage is also examined, says Kent Krause, a Dallas-based aviation attorney.

Don't allow children to pack for themselves because what they view as harmless may trigger a security search, Krause recommends.

Your child's backpack should not contain toy guns, toy knives or any sharp, metal objects. These will be confiscated. Explain to children that jokes about toy weapons should be avoided because they will be taken seriously.

When packing checked luggage, avoid placing books on top of each other. Space them out in a single layer on the bottom or top of your bag. Stacked books tend to trigger the monitoring machines, Krause says.

Make sure tweezers, nail clippers and the like are in luggage that you plan to check, not in carry-on bags. Our checked bag containing those items - and our hair dryer, my curling iron and other toiletries - had a tag placed inside it stating that it had been hand-searched.

Give yourself extra time to get through security and arrive at your gate on time.

"Assume that if you're with children, it's going to take longer," Krause says.

But the waiting doesn't have to be for naught, Baicker-McKee says.

Here are some of her ideas on how to make the most of that time:

(She says most of these are good for long amusement park lines, too.)

  • Take turns being the leader in a game of "Can you do this?" A family member may choose to stand on one foot and count to 20. Then all the other family members have to attempt that feat.

  • Try a penny shuffle. Place a penny on the top of each family member's right shoe. See who can keep it in place until you get to the front of the line.

  • Keep a deck of cards handy for family members to draw from at random. See who has the highest, lowest, most red cards, etc.

  • Use your finger to "draw" a picture on another family member's back. See if he can guess what you're drawing. Then trade places.

  • Play air ball. Pretend that you're tossing a ball to each other. Balance it on your nose, spin it on your finger, etc.

Once on the plane, relax and enjoy your children.

If they start to get antsy, make the most of snack time.

Ask your child to arrange pretzels or goldfish crackers in the shape of a face. Then eat one, rearrange the remaining ones as a face. Eat another one, make another face, and so on.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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