By: Dr. Erica Wollerman
Wait, we need a whole blog about how to have fun at Disneyland????
I know, I know. What has parenting come to? If our kids can’t just have fun at the happiest place on earth, what are we doing wrong!!!
While this is a bit exaggerated, I would honestly say it is not exaggerated in terms of what most parents think when their child is having an epic meltdown when their super expensive, carefully planned, and completely kid-centered holiday is not going well. And believe me, I get it! My family has not yet gone to Disneyland for this exact reason. In my eyes, if we struggle at SeaWorld San Diego and Legoland, we are likely not quite ready for Disneyland!
In preparation for the summer and all the exciting plans families have set up, I thought it would help to share some ideas about how to help tricky kids manage their feelings during these long days at amusement parks. While my personal and professional experience sets me up to expect certain kids to struggle in these situations, I have found that often parents do not expect it and, as a result, are often caught off guard with just their instant reactions of “How spoiled are you!” when these situations go off the rails.
Even for me, this has been challenging. Recently, we let our son (age 5.5) play a video game at SeaWorld, which we thought would be a real treat because we have not yet let him really get into video or arcade games in our home. However, when it was sadly and unexpectedly (for him) short-lived, he could not regulate for about an hour. This involved lots of tears, attempted running away from us, bargaining to try and get more time to play, and honestly, pretty much sheer misery for all of us. And while it kind of proved our point that he is not quite emotionally ready for video games, it was tough to manage our reactions and approach him with empathy. I had to keep reminding myself that this is how our son learns - it, unfortunately, often involves a lot of frustration and trying to get out of the lesson in one way or another. In this one, he was learning regret as he felt he spent his money too quickly, and it was not worth it in the end. While this is such a valuable lesson, I would have loved it if he could learn it more quietly and kindly without such a scene!
So, this led me to think that perhaps we should all be better prepared for challenges in these situations! Here are my quick tips to help keep in mind so that big days with your child(ren) might go a bit smoother!
Going into the big day:
During the big day:
After the big day:
Keep in mind that you and your child are always doing the best you can in the situation you are in with the skills you have. Try to avoid blaming or shaming them if something is not going well or if you feel they are not acting the way you would like. Their behavior is communication, and it is important to see it as such, especially in hard and new situations!
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Musings from Erica, Jennifer, Maria, Kim, Andrea, Molly, Abbey, and Ying-Ying