For parents hoping that this is the year their child musters the courage to take that first roller coaster adventure, it's a tough call: do they encourage, bribe or shame their kids into facing their fears? Or let them decide for themselves?
This summer, LEGOLAND® Florida, Central Florida's newest theme park, is helping families deal withVeloxrotaphobia, or fear of roller coasters, by arming parents with "Roller Coaster Readiness" tips.
Leadership at the park reached out to nationally-recognized psychologist and award-winning author Dr. Susan Bartell to create tools for both guests and employees to help parents manage these challenging situations.
"Our junior roller coasters offer just the right blend of speed and thrill that make LEGOLAND Florida the perfect spot for kids to ride their very first roller coaster," says Adrian Jones, LEGOLAND Florida general manager. "But because we know the 'pink knuckle' nature of these attractions doesn't mitigate a first timer's fears, we wanted to provide resources to parents as well as our employee 'model citizens' to ensure that first plunge is a positive experience for the entire family."
According to Bartell, there are a host of mistakes parents commonly make when it comes to handling their child's fear of roller coasters.
"Dismissing a child's 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 won't 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."
Bartell has helped the park create a Roller Coaster Readiness guide that includes things families can do before they leave home, tips on managing a melt-down and ways to celebrate at the end of the day. The guide is available online and at the front gate.
She has also helped train LEGOLAND Florida's employees to be more observant of these types of scenarios and create a calmer environment for families to make these decisions.
"I've armed the employees with what I call the 'Four R's of Roller Coaster Readiness' which include Recognizing, Responding, Resolving and Reassuring," said Bartell. "I'm also trying to help them understand the difference between a child who is definitely not ready and one who is a candidate for encouragement – and give them pointers on talking with parents and guardians. In the end, it's always a parent's decision, but most moms and dads will appreciate the support."
LEGOLAND Florida rolled out its new program this month in preparation for a busy summer season – the park's first. It opened in October 2011 with 50 rides, shows and attractions and has already become a favorite destination of young families.
A sampling of Dr. Bartell's tips are below; for a complete list visit www.LEGOLAND.com.
Before Your Trip
- Learn Online – Young children (especially those who are anxious), don't like surprises. So, visit the LEGOLAND Florida 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, don't 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 someone's hand – in fact, it is part of the fun. Explain that feeling a bit nervous doesn't mean you are too scared to go on the roller coaster.
- No Regrets – If your child expresses regret that he didn't try the roller coaster, don't make him feel bad. Now that the day is over, it's easy for him to 'be brave.' 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.
MERLIN ENTERTAINMENTS is the leading name in location-based, family entertainment, and has seen the most successful and dynamic growth of any company in the sector over the last five years. Europe's Number 1 and the world's second-largest visitor attraction operator, Merlin now operates 89 attractions, seven hotels/two holiday villages in 19 countries and across four continents. The company aims to deliver memorable and rewarding experiences to its 46 million visitors worldwide, through its iconic global and local brands, and the commitment and passion of its managers and more than 17,000 employees. Among Merlin's attractions are - SEA LIFE, Madame Tussauds, LEGOLAND, The EDF Energy London Eye, Dungeons, Gardaland, LEGOLAND Discovery Centres, Alton Towers Resort, Warwick Castle, THORPE PARK, Chessington World of Adventures Resort, Blackpool Tower, Heide Park, Sydney Aquarium, WILD LIFE Sydney, Sydney Tower Eye and SKYWALK, Siam Ocean World and Busan Aquarium. All brands which are distinctive, challenging and innovative – and which have great potential for growth in the future. Visit www.merlinentertainments.biz for more information.
Merlin currently has fourteen attractions in the USA including the stunning LEGOLAND Florida theme park which opened in October last year; LEGOLAND California theme park with its exciting Water Park, and SEA LIFE aquarium (a hotel will also open in 2013); Madame Tussauds attractions in New York,Washington DC, Las Vegas and Hollywood; LEGOLAND Discovery Centers in Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth; Atlanta, Georgia and Kansas City; and SEA LIFE aquariums in Phoenix, Arizona; Dallas/Fort Worth; and the Mall of America in Minneapolis, underlining the company's position as the world's biggest global aquarium operator. Two more Merlin attractions are also scheduled to open in the USA in 2012 - a SEA LIFE in Kansas City; Missouri; and a Water Park in LEGOLAND Florida.