by David Juart

I was pumped, possibly too much. Gigi was all gung ho about pretty much anything and everything I threw at her. There were the obvious ones, Small World and the Tea Cups were favorites from when she was three. But to my surprise, she was ready to rock with Haunted Mansion, Pirates (even though it had scared her the previous year), Buzz, Toy Story and even Splash and Big Thunder Mountain. We had conversations about the rides, what they were – even watched YouTube videos (some, like Splash, to tiring lengths). I was beyond stoked to share my love for all thing “thrill” at WDW with my 44″ tall, brazen, four year old Princess.

I blame it all on Peter Pan and his 40 year old adventure. There I stood in front of a moving walk way, coaxing an all of the sudden apprehensive four year old onto a ride that I hadn’t stepped on since Y2K was the Next Big Thing. Frankly, I forgot how dark, high, and jerky the ride was. All I remembered through my rose colored glasses was sharing a seat with my Mother and seeing the scale model of London below us (which until this moment in time I was unsure of which of these “kiddie ride” Big Ben was in). It was dark, and Gigi knew it. Four year olds can see the future, dontchaknow? And you know what, I should have known. The year before she couldn’t hide far enough behind me while riding Pirates. We made it through Peter Pan, but a half an hour later I found myself looking as if I was stealing my own child as she tried to bolt out of the queue at PotC. It was meltdown moment number one of the day with another to come at Splash, as a tired little girl buried her head into my shoulder as we made our way back out of the queue. And this was just Day 1.

For the rest of trip, Gigi was timid of pretty much every attraction, even shows such as Muppetvision 3D and Voyage of the Little Mermaid. Shows that shouldn’t elicit such a reaction. Some she fought through, others she avoided. Though we had a great vacation, it was marked with a lot of “coulda’s” and “shoulda’s”, to the point that one week after returning home, Dear Daughter was talking about riding Pirates “next time”. In an effort to not have this happen to you, I give you my Top 5 Meltdown Avoidance Tips.

5. YouTube – I’m pretty sure it’s in the DISDad bylaws that we’re required to watch a certain number of ride-throughs on YouTube. Watch them with your kids. Give them a feel for what they’re about to experience. Hopefully, alleviating some of the unknown will be the first step of getting the wee ones onto Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. (Ed. Note: If you have a Netflix subscription, there are several Disney Parks videos available that include both on-ride video and behind the scenes looks that can also be helpful in addressing the fear of the unknown issues).

4. Talk – Simple enough, right? The seasoned WDW goers among us have stories to tell of their first ride on the Teacups and how they were scared of the drop at the Tower of Terror. Share your stories of apprehension and overcoming those fears.

3. Pace Yourself – This is where I dropped the ball. I don’t know if I was caught up in the excitement of the first day, or if I was still delirious from 17 hours of driving the previous one. But we tried to tackle too much too quickly. I have a sneaking suspicion that if we would have slowed the tempo down and allowed my daughter’s curiosity for each ride to grow, it would have been a different outcome.

2. Enlist the help of other kids – Even if you don’t do this directly, pointing out that other children are riding the attraction can help coax apprehensive riders past their initial fears. Now, I’m not saying to call your son a wimp because “those kids are going on it and you aren’t.” Showing that other people are getting on and actually coming off in one piece (and even smiling and laughing) can help alleviate fears.

1. Know your kid – Again, no brainer. So I thought, anyway. I was way off. Even though Gigi was brazen while watching YouTube videos and talking about rides, in the heat of the moment she froze up and scared herself. Had I realized this, I could have approached things a bit differently, or not approached them at all.

So that’s what I have. What suggestions have you? Post them in the comments below or tweet us @DisDadsPodcast, or give me much-needed advice directly @dpjuart.

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