I think every parent has a fear that their child will have a meltdown at Disney. You have probably watched or heard about other parents who go through this stressful experience, and then speculate on what you would do in the situation or how you could have avoided it. Kids are kids! The meltdowns happen to the best of us. Even with the best planning (I tend to be an over planner) and work to accommodate all of the needs of your children, it still happens. Disney can be very over-stimulating for young children. You also have the weather elements (usually hot) working against you, all of the snacks and smells drawing them in and the gift shops with endless, appealing toys! I have experienced it with both of my boys and I am happy to be here to report that there is life on the other side!
Here are a few tips that I have used, and will share with you to help survive a meltdown at Disney:
1. Take a deep breath.
You will get through it, and so will your child. You may want to start chanting, “I love my child,” in your head over and over again to help build you up for what’s to come. (After all, you do love them!)
2. Get your child to a less crowded area as quickly as possible.
This can be challenging given that it’s Disney and there are people everywhere, but try to see what’s around you. Look for maybe a family restroom, the Baby Care area, an area with a few empty tables, etc. The key here is to minimize the amount of onlookers. We are all guilty of gawking at situations where parents are dealing with screaming children, so let’s help minimize that attention for you. It’s less distracting for other guests and ultimately will help in calming your child down.
3. Temperature / Hunger/ Thirst / Fatigue
Sometimes kids get so excited at Disney that they don’t let you know when they are hungry, thirsty, tired, hot, etc. until they are in such a bad mood that even they don’t know what they need.
Try to get a gauge of their temperature, hunger level, thirst or even fatigue. Our meltdowns with our youngest have been heat related. He got too hot and then too upset to tell us what was wrong. If they feel warm or are extremely red-faced. Focus on cooling them off and comforting them. I put my youngest in my lap and fanned him while I talked very softly to him so he would start to calm himself down. As soon as he started to get quieter, I could start distracting him with his cup of juice, one of his toys, a snack from our bag, etc. and then crisis over.
You can try to keep to keep snacks on hand, or of course there are snack locations all over Disney where you can get all types of items, even fresh fruit. If you need a cup of water for them to drink or to use to aid in cooling them down, Disney Quick Service locations that serve fountain sodas will give you cups of water for free, no purchase required. There are also water fountains in various areas in all of the parks. If nothing seems to work then it may be time for a break in the room or a nap in the stroller if you can get them to lie down.
4. He/She Doesn’t Get Their Way.
Situations where your child doesn’t get what they want are a bit trickier, as you don’t want to give into them and let them win with a tantrum. Maybe they want to go to an attraction that isn’t on the agenda yet, want candy when they haven’t had lunch yet, or want every toy in the gift shop. It could even be that they think it’s fun to wave their light saber around aimlessly and you won’t let them do that as they are at risk of hitting other guests (this has happened to us… meltdown city!). One important thing to note is that these situations are usually also in some part a result of the situations in #3. Kids get cranky and don’t even realize why they are cranky, and they react much worse than they normally would for these situations.
5. First try reasoning with them.
Hey, it’s always worth a shot, right? You explain why they aren’t able to do/have whatever it is they want and talk up all the other things that they are going to do/get later in the day, later in the trip, etc. Hype up all of that fun stuff, so that they (hopefully) get excited about that and distracted from what they were originally upset about.
6. Strike a deal.
This may sound like giving in, but it really isn’t. Maybe they wanted an ice cream, but you want them to eat lunch first. Remind them that they will get to have an ice cream as long as they behave and eat lunch. Maybe they wanted to ride Peter Pan, but your Fast Passes aren’t for another 3 hours, explain that you are going to do ride Haunted Mansion and see the Country Bears and you will come back for Peter Pan in a little bit after Captain Hook has a nap (or some magical story to make it sound more compelling). It keeps the magic alive for the kids and helps them move past their crankiness, while still doing exactly what you already planned to do.
7. Try a time out.
Time out travels anywhere, so Disney is no exception. In severe cases, this time out may have to be back at the room or make your way to the Baby Care center where you can take a break without the distractions. We have had to completely leave the park and go back to the room. Once in the room we enforced a nap (even though that became the new thing to throw a fit over), and he was asleep within 5 minutes and slept 2 hours! This told us he was definitely just too tired and didn’t know how to explain what was wrong. He woke up and we went back out and had a great dinner and evening with no issues.
8. Remember that it happens to almost all of us.
If your child throws a fit it doesn’t reflect on you or your parenting. It doesn’t mean that you failed in any way or that other guest’s children are better than yours. You just didn’t see their meltdowns. Keep your head held high, and try not to hold a grudge or get nervous about the meltdown happening again. Now that you have lived through it, you will be better prepared to watch for the warning signs or mitigate the situation sooner.
9. Most importantly, give your kids a hug and tell them you love them.
Kids ultimately want to please their parents and you are in the most magical place on earth! Take them to see fireworks that evening and watch the amazement on their little face(s). You’ll forget all about that pesky meltdown!