Anyone who has been to a Disney Theme Park undoubtedly felt the magic. I remember going to Disneyland as a kid. It was as if all of my dreams were real. There really were princesses and castles, flying elephants and pirates! As a parent, I feel as if I have even more fun than I did as a kid. It is truly magical to watch my kids and see their imaginations come to life.
So, how does Disney do it? How do they capture the attention and hearts of every child and parent who enters their gates? They are communication pros. First, Disney creates lovable characters, who while not necessarily human, are very easy to relate to. Watching a Disney movie or cartoon, we begin to feel we know these characters and kids trust them. Second, when you go to a Disney Theme Park, you are welcomed by friendly, familiar faces who meet you (or your child) at your level. Notice in the picture below how Princess Jasmine kneels down to welcome the kids, smiles and asks questions about their day; she’s making them comfortable and helping them to open up to her in a very short period of time.
All the Disney staff is trained in these communication techniques. Even the characters in costume know how to use gestures and body positioning to ease the nerves of a small child. These same techniques can help all of us communicate with children.
- When you meet an unfamiliar person (e.g., a rarely seen cousin or great aunt, etc.) tell stories that help your child relate to that person on your drive to meet them. Practice what you might talk about by remembering what it was like the last time your child met a new person.
- Give your child a sense of how long the interaction will last and where it will be.
- If the new person is unable to bend down to your child’s level, pick your child up.
- Be prepared for the unexpected. Your child may say or do something you never saw coming! Most adults, especially those employed by Disney, find a child’s out of left field comment/action endearing!
(When my Maeve was almost 3, she LOVED Rapunzel. We waited in line at Disneyland to meet her. Maeve was SO excited! When it was her turn, she turned mute. Rapunzel bent down and commented on Maeve’s Rapunzel shirt. Maeve looked up at Rapunzel and smiled. Then, completely spontaneously, Maeve reached out and stroked Rapunzel’s huge braid of hair and began to sing, “Flowers gleam and glow…” (Rapunzel’s song). Rapunzel was so sweet and kind; she didn’t interrupt, she gently swayed to the song. It was Maeve’s highlight to the Disneyland trip.)