In part I we discussed good mental health and your child on vacation. In part II we continue that discussion on the mental health benefits.

Disney provides a safe environment filled with fantasy that sparks the imagination. Safety, high on the hierarchy of needs, can be reinforced on scary rides, thrill rides or by learning to greet a character that seems massive and strange. Take this opportunity to insist that your child act in ways that are safe by wearing the seat belts or keeping their legs and arms in the vehicle and all other safety precautions. If your child is frightened of rides or characters take this event to build trust and to encourage them to take a chance while accompanied by you. Take this chance to remind them that you would not put them at risk. Prepare your child for what’s ahead. If the ride is dark, then tell him so and let him hold your hand or sit close. Holding your child close in a doombuggy and keeping the haunts at bay can strengthen trust with your child, a trust that is invaluable when they are teens and you want them to come to you with problems or trouble. Remind your child that Mickey wants them to remain safe, too, and that he will keep all pirates and ghosts out of harm’s way.  Seize this opportunity to allow your child to express her emotions. Take pride that your child trusts you enough to say “I’m scared” rather than be embarrassed because he is fearful of the Haunted Mansion.  The benefits of teaching your child to express fears like “I’m afraid to ride Dinosaur” or “The Haunted Mansion is scary” far outweigh teaching your child to “bottle up” emotions. A child who learns to express emotions freely may be more apt to express fears to a parent.

While many children should not be forced onto rides they fear; not all children have to avoid a potentially frightening ride. With encouragement many learn to challenge their fears with your help and encouragement.  A Disney vacation offers many challenging tasks like swimming across a resort pool, approaching a character for the first time, standing in line, or facing a dark ride. Opportunities to help your child learn and grow seem endless.  A day in a Disney park is filled with exciting challenges.

A trip to Disney allows ample opportunities for a child to stand up for her needs. Let all members of the family share in the planning and state their desires to ride a favorite ride. Small children are often difficult to spot at a snack counter, so, if you allow your child to purchase a snack, make sure he is seen and able to voice his needs politely and effectively.

Children often grab our attention with negative emotions; but, in the parks, take advantage of the many opportunities to share quality time with your child. It’s not hard to lavish your child with quality attention as you ride Dumbo together, take a memorable family photo, or laugh while you share a quickly melting Mickey ice cream bar. Take this opportunity to try new activities, foods, and friendships. World Showcase–filled with new countries, cultures, and foods to explore–provides an excellent area for trying new things.

Taking a vacation from appropriate communication and behaviors may result in taking home more than souvenirs and wonderful memories. While thinking of your child’s good mental health may be farthest from your mind on vacation, striving for your goals with your child’s mental health may seem like magic while children in the park are highly motivated by the next attraction or character. Make it an adventure.

The opinions and resources provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to take the place of medical or legal advice, or of other appropriate services.

Contributed by: Beth B. (NDM #226) Beth is the DDL Special Needs Blogger. She is also a contributor at Mouse-Aid.

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