Parents should give consideration to their child’s behavior before any trip – even the Disney trip. If a typical child occasionally misbehaves at home, why think that will change on vacation? Unfortunately, the unacceptable behaviors at home may be exaggerated at Disney with the very significant environmental change. The child is not familiar with the possible stimulus overload that could occur.
Seeing the Disney trip from the child’s perspective can help a parent plan on some strategies to reduce the possibility of misbehavior. Anticipating is worthwhile to prevent unpleasant experiences.
1 – Consider the Atmosphere
The child may not understand the “theme” park concept but does have a favorite. The child’s behavior could be different in a favorite theme park when compared with a least favorite location. A six-year-old may find Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom a happy place and World Showcase in Epcot very boring.
Suggestion: Spend the most time in areas that kids enjoy!
2 – Know Their Physical Endurance
The child’s physical endurance will be tested. Walking, running and standing for up to 12 hours challenges the growing legs. The child may not recognize physical fatigue with all of the surrounding distractions leading to misbehavior when stopping and sitting. The child is tired yet there’s so much to see and do.
Suggestion: Plan every day to include breaks for restful times. Attractions like Country Bears, Carousel of Progress, Mickey’s Philharmagic, and Hall of the Presidents make a good afternoon show for quiet time (or nap).
3 – Adjust for the Weather
At home, parents can monitor the weather conditions and adjust the child’s schedule accordingly. A Disney day is rain or shine, heat and humidity, and full of activity. This may have a negative impact on the whole family’s mood and behavior.
Suggestion: Have a plan in mind for alternating outside and undercover activities on those wet days that includes raingear, and good traction sneakers, and schedule pool time to cool off on the hot days!
4 – Stay Healthy
Many children need direction and encouragement with meal and drink suggestions. During all of the stimulation and excitement, eating and drinking can take a backseat even for adults.
Suggestion: Anticipate the possibility of a behavior change due to hunger or thirst. Focus on hydration and having a plan for meals each day that includes wholesome snacks. Remember that counter-service restaurants give out free cups of water, and many locations sell whole fruit and bags of nuts.
5 – Manage Anxiety
Particularly with the first Disney visit, children need parental guidance with their choices of park attractions. The child may wish to change plans when they actually view the chosen ride. Anxiety about the ride or fear can be evidenced by a change in behavior. Maybe a six-year-old doesn’t wish to ride Space Mountain after reaching the boarding area or the actual appearance of a favorite character may be daunting.
Suggestion: Anticipating this possibility and offering a non-critical alternate plan can resolve anxiety and further the fun. If hugs are comfort favorites in your family, don’t skimp on these while on vacation.
6 – Know that you will be waiting
It is unlikely that a child who has never been to Disney has had their patience tested at a Disney level. Lines, crowds and waiting for attractions, transportation, and food are to be expected. Standing for long periods without a pre-show is difficult.
Suggestion: Prepare your child(ren) by talking to the child about the inevitability of waiting. Providing simple distractions such as conversing about experiences each enjoyed that day can making waiting more like just talking. Parents can set an example of calmness and patience. Get as many FastPasses as you can, and use mobile ordering on the MyDisneyExperience app to order food for the entire family, thus eliminating some waiting time for the child.
7 – Manage Frustrations
Unexpected anxiety can manifest in the form of frustration from disappointment. This can occur when a long-anticipated attraction is not operating or there is an unexpected height restriction that disqualifies a rider. This happens often to these highly specialized, unique attractions.
Suggestion: Be ready with a rapid, pleasant alternative. Parent knowledge of height restrictions on some attractions is a pre-requisite to choosing rides for younger children.
8 – Plan for Souvenirs
Most children want to take home a tangible memory of the Disney trip. This is potentially the ultimate “I want…” whining and tantrums. Help to avoid souvenir overload.
Suggestion: Before you leave for the trip, talk with the child about a souvenir to bring home. If they have one in mind that is within budget, problem solved. If the child isn’t sure and can understand, give them a dollar amount maximum and they can choose later. They will see an overwhelming amount of merchandise, so choosing may be difficult. The child should understand the plan and a fuss in a store could result in no souvenir to bring home.
Knowing the child’s temperament gives a parent an accurate assessment of how the child will behave in the unique Disney experience. Focusing on the child’s past responses to a variety of situations guides the parent to prepare for a fun vacation.
How have you focused on fun during your family Disney vacation?