Not that Susie or Johnny–or these days–Taylor or Ashton–would ever do this, but here’s a little secret: Kids sometimes get cranky.
Yup, it’s true.
And, yes, they even get cranky at the Most Magical Place on Earth. In fact, maybe more so. What with overstimulation, inflated expectations, too much Dole Whip, and the sheer excitement of seeing Pluto in person—what’s a kid to do but act out? We can’t promise your kids won’t have a meltdown—or that you won’t, either—but here are some tips to deal with them when they happen, and with any luck, to forestall them altogether.
Deal with Your Own Expectations
Lots of parents find that they have a particular fantasy of the way the trip is going to play out: After all, you’ve probably been saving and planning for this for quite a while. Here’s a tip: Dial it down. You’re going to have a great time–but maybe not in the exact way that you’ve planned. Steel yourself for the fact that no matter how much you plan, not everything is within your control. Life happens. Kids get tired. Lines are long. The concession stand runs out of chocolate-covered frozen bananas. Deal with it. And we mean that in the nicest possible way. Remember: You’re the grown up. Do not deal with your child’s tantrum by yelling, as we heard one parent do, “You’re going on Dumbo whether you like it or not!!”
Now, really. Who is that Dumbo ride supposed to be for, anyway?
Remember that it’s still possible to have a long and happy life even if you haven’t ridden on Pirates of the Caribbean 12 times and that you’ve substituted some down time in the play area for a long line in Epcot.
Always Be Five Steps Ahead
Make sure you have snacks (meltdowns are often due to hunger, if you hadn’t noticed); water, and things to do while waiting on lines. A small first aid kit wouldn’t be amiss, either. Beware of the times your child tends to get hungry/sleepy. Plan rest stops or quiet activities for those times, rather than a 20-minute walk to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad followed by a wait on line without a FASTPASS. Maybe go back to your room to swim in the middle of the day. And here’s a novel idea: Note the times that you tend to get tired/hungry/cranky as well.
Be Prepared to Switch Plans
Follow the Touring Plans, but be prepared to deviate if need be. It’s fun to be in the moment, not always to anticipate the next thing, or to bemoan things you didn’t get to do, or to try to do 10 things miserably instead of five that your really enjoy just so you can say you’ve checked them off your list.
Again–Have Realistic Expectations
You won’t see all of Disney World in one trip–even if you walk very, very fast. You may see a lot, but certainly not all. And don’t go with the idea that you absolutely, positively have to see/ride/do certain attractions/rides/events, or you’re bound to be disappointed. It’s like going to France with the sole idea of seeing the Mona Lisa—it may be off view; you might get to see it, but for four seconds, rather than the lengthy period of contemplation you envisioned. You’re going for an overall experience, not just a single attraction.
Check in With Your Kids
Make sure your kids are getting to do what they want; that they get to rest if they need to; if they’ve changed their mind about Kali River Rapids. Let them be in the moment—to stop and watch a performer; to buy a postcard for Aunt Myrna; to see what’s down that side path.
The Eye of the Tantrum
Despite all your planning, however, tantrums may still occur.
In general, it is not a good idea, as a friend of ours did, to say to your kids, “If you stop screaming because you can’t have gummy bears, I’ll give you some chocolate.”
Try to diffuse the situation. If you can get somewhere quiet, do so. If kids are hungry, feed them. Use distraction, but try not to bribe them.
Above all, remain calm. Your child will get over it. Disney World, while utterly, completely fabulous, can be pretty overwhelming. And remember….
Other People’s Kids get Cranky, Too
And, in a way, that’s one of the great things about Disney World—to know that other people’s kids are also whining for ice cream, begging for souvenirs, shrieking because the didn’t get a certain autograph, sneaking soft serve for breakfast. It’s incredibly comforting to know you’re not alone, that other parents face the same issues, and that meltdowns and tantrums, as unpleasant as they are—do pass, whether you’re in your own living room or at Cinderella’s Royal Table.
Do you have suggestions on dealing with meltdowns and tantrums at Disney? Let us know!