For parents hoping that this is the year their child musters the courage to take that first roller-coaster adventure, its a tough call: Do you encourage, bribe or shame a kid into facing her fears? Or do you let him decide for himself?
Psychologist and author Susan Bartell offers some suggestions.
Bartell says there are a host of mistakes parents commonly make.
Dismissing a childs fear, comparing them to a sibling or friend, bribing them with gifts and money, or labeling a child with a negative name based on their reluctance wont make them any braver, says Bartell. In fact, those strategies often cause greater anxiety and resentment and make them more reluctant, not to mention ruin what should be a great day for the family.
Here are her suggestions:
Learn online: Young children (especially those who are anxious) dont like surprises. Visit the parks website with your child and look at the different attractions, discussing how much fun each one will be.
Tell a story: Talk to your child about fun roller-coaster experiences that you and other people had when they were kids. Be as animated, silly and positive as possible.
Focus on fun: As you arrive, review the park map and point out all the fun attractions, not just the roller coasters.
Take it slow: Invite your child to pick which attractions she most wants to experience. If she is reluctant to try the roller coasters, begin with at least a couple of her choices.
Watch and learn: When some people in your party are eager to try a roller coaster, dont split up. Rather, watch the roller-coaster ride with your reluctant child, all the time commenting excitedly about how much fun it looks and how happy and excited kids are as they come off the ride. Point out that kids coming off the ride do not look scared and are not crying.
Nervous is normal: Explain that while riding a roller coaster, it is normal to feel a little nervous, scream, close your eyes and squeeze someones hand – in fact, it is part of the fun. Explain that feeling a bit nervous doesnt mean you are too scared to go on the roller coaster.
No regrets: If your child expresses regret that he didnt try the roller coaster, dont make him feel bad. Instead, remind him there is always a next time, and that he should focus on the rides he enjoyed and the fun that was had by all.