If your family is like ours you might have at least one child with major anxiety, especially when it comes to characters. Our middle daughter is that child in our house. Seeing Santa or the Easter bunny is a nightmare for her so naturally when we make trips to Disney, there are concerns. We have found through trial and error a few tips and tricks to make meeting characters less stressful and more enjoyable for everyone.
1. Starting a few weeks before our trip, we begin our countdown by watching videos at home showing the characters interacting with other guests.
There are various park-specific specials that come on TV and Netflix. There are also planning videos provided by Disney with examples of different character experiences available at the parks. Doing this gives our kids positive examples of what to expect with character interactions along with a size comparison. For younger children, characters can seem larger than life and their size is intimidating.
2. Our first day on Disney property is usually spent at a park where we can character-watch from a distance.
Sometimes, my husband or I will wait off to the side with our middle daughter while the other takes the rest of the children to visit with the characters. She will often wave to them and eventually become more comfortable with encounters as well. We love to spend our first day at Epcot. It is a great park for seeing characters, many of which are seen while wandering World Showcase. Another thing I love about seeing characters at Epcot is the large number of “face characters” which means, “real people”. From princesses like Belle and Jasmine to Alice and Mary Poppins, meeting these characters first is less intimidating than the larger than life masked characters such as Mickey, Donald, or Goofy!
3. The next tip we learned the hard way. Don’t schedule a character meal for the first day.
Starting your first day in Disney with a character breakfast might seem like a magical way to begin your Disney experience but when you have a child who is unsure of the characters, it may end in DISASTER! To avoid this scenario, we schedule our character meals for later in the trip. While our breakfast with Mickey and friends turned into a bit of a debacle, the princess dinner and pirate fireworks voyage scheduled toward the end of our trip was much more successful!
4. Lastly, take cues from your child. They may need to hold your hand during encounters or want you to stand between them and Mickey Mouse which can all make for a less stressful experience.
Make a list of the Disney characters they feel comfortable meeting and seek those out early on for your trip. Our middle child went from being too scared to even stand by her favorite characters, to giving them hugs within just a couple of days of working with her. This reduced her anxiety and helped her feel more comfortable with the Disney character encounters.