As the Disneyland Resort has now reopened, you’re probably eager to get your theme park fix. This is bit more difficult if you have an anxious child. (And who isn’t a little nervous about being around large groups of people after this last year?)
I was blessed with a sweet, sensitive, and anxious little boy who needs constant preparation, discussion, and analysis. The grocery store? The park? The bathroom? He wants to dissect it all in detail.
Thanks to him, and a few Disneyland meltdowns, I’ve become skilled at supporting him and managing my expectations.
These tips will help you prepare yourself and your anxious child for a day at the Disneyland theme park:
#1 – Talk it out
Telling your kiddo what to expect can make a big difference: talk about the drive there, the parking lot, the entrance, the different rides, the characters, and anything else you think might upset them.
While you’re there, remind them that this was something you discussed earlier, like this:
“Remember I told you there might be a long line for your favorite ride? Good thing we brought a snack to eat while we wait!”
And take the time to “debrief” later and discuss what they liked or didn’t like and why.
#2 – Practice
It might feel silly at first, but try to practice in the week leading up to the visit. I do role-play with my son before most events. We practice how to behave, what to do when we’re upset, whom to go to if we have a problem, where to go if we’re lost, and more. Parents assume their kiddos instinctively know what to do in these situations, but giving guidance or rules about what to do will make anxious children feel more confident.
#3 – Don’t Push
This one’s hard. After all the work it takes to get to a theme park, it can be so frustrating that your child doesn’t want to go on a ride or watch a show (especially after you waited in line for an hour to do it). But pushing or dismissing their anxiety won’t help.
If you’re lucky enough to have a partner, family member, or friend there, take turns skipping rides. If not, let it go and talk about their hesitations or fears another day.
#4 – Take Breaks
If you have a child that gets overwhelmed easily, theme parks are tough. They’re usually packed with people, rides, kiosks, and stores. There aren’t a lot of empty spaces to take real breaks. Before you go, take time to review a map of the park and mark the areas where you can sit and relax.
#5 – Stay Hydrated and Fed
This goes for all children (and yourself). Bring lots of water, food, and snacks. Nothing ruins a day at Disneyland park faster than being thirsty and hungry, which quickly turns into hangry. Regularly drinking water and eating will keep your child calmer and happier.
Bonus tip for visiting Disneyland theme park with an anxious child: Lower Your Expectations
I know how tough it can be when you were so excited to share your love of roller coasters or The Little Mermaid – Ariel’s Undersea Adventure ride with your child, and they aren’t having it. You might feel frustrated or angry, but don’t take it personally or let it ruin the day. Give your child space to sit back and observe and choose to jump in when he or she’s ready. And it’s ok for you to have fun and enjoy the day, even if your child doesn’t love it as much as you do.
Do you have any other tips to make an adventure park fun for an anxious little one?