How old should they be to go off on their own

Kindermouse

DIS Veteran
Joined
Mar 6, 2016
i have taken my son to Disneyand by myself many times since I have been single since he was 1 its all we know and it has always been a good experience. He has a few special needs (OCD ADHD and Tourettes) that allow him to have a DAS that we have used as need. The days in the park are slow and we often leave by the afternoon so he doesn't get too anxious or irritable.

This next trip in October we are going for 5 days and taking the cousins...by ourselves. That will be 3 kids and just one me. Their ages will be 6, 9, and my son will be 13. This will be a whole new ball game and while I was excited when I said the cousins could go, I'm getting a bit nervous.

That's a lot more kids at Disneyland than I'm used to. I'm a teacher so I'm used to managing a lot of young children, but Disney is nothing like my classroom and being with your own kids and nieces and nephews is not like being with students. So I was thinking about what I could do to make thing work for the best and I came up with a few ideas I'm not quite sure about.

I was thinking that maybe it's finally time to let my 13 year old go off a little bit on his own. It will help him go at his own pace and it will let the little kids do little kid things that he doesn't want to do. What do you think. Is 13 old enough to go off his own for a ride or two or to take a break and have a snack and a little down time on his own?

Also I was thinking about reward the kids for good behavior. One small souvenir (less than 10 bucks) at the end of th day if the day went well. That's about 150 bucks but maybe it would be money well spent?

What other tips and trick would you give to make thing go more smoothly when I'm out numbered 3/1 with two big boys (9 and 13) and on little girl (6).
 

MsMamaBear

Mouseketeer
Joined
Mar 29, 2014
I only have a 4 yr old, so I haven't been through this yet, but at 13, I'd let him go for a few rides or such since you know where he excels and his limits. I'd be fine with a couple of rides and a snack. I know Disney isn't some safe forever bubble, but I'd be more inclined there than a local place without security. And I am a hover mom at the local playground with my eyes on her at all times.
 

StirlingSilver83

DIS Veteran
Joined
Jan 16, 2014
My kids are only 9 and 2 right now so I don't have personal experience, but I know I have already had this discussion with my hubby...I don't think I would let my older DS go off on his own until he was at least 14 or 15 when we are in a theme park. He also has disabilities (ADHD, OCD, and ASD) that let him have a DAS. If he had a friend to go off with I might let him go by himself at age 13...but we would have a meeting place about every hour and he would have a watch and a cell phone to keep track of him. I am really obsessive when it comes to my kids being a lone...I know when I was growing up my mom use to get me a season pass to Six Flags and I was there with a bunch of friends and we were only like 11 or 12 at the time. She would drop us off and pick us up, but that was a different time back then...times change and there are too many weirdos out there...I just want to make sure I know where my son is at all times...even when we are at six flags water park and he goes off with my hubby while I stay in the wave pool with my toddler, I want to know where they are going and they have to come back and check in with me...I am sort of preparing my son for the "rules" early so when he goes off by himself nothing really changes for him. Anyways thats just my view on things, but I just like to know where my kid is at all times...I am a little over protective though, lol
 
  • Kindermouse

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Mar 6, 2016
    Ugh its such a tough call. I'm actually pretty bad about being a hovering mom so maybe the first step should be giving him a bit more independence at home and using this next 6 months to build up to it.

    He loves his cousins but keeping up with little ones is exhausting to the best of us:crazy: and everyone will be happier if my DS doesn't get pushed too far in busy theme park. Also his cousins love him...a lot:love1: ... And that alone can be a bit overwhelming after a while. I know he will need the breaks and I can't think of a better way to give him those breaks but letting him go off on his own for an hour or so. Maybe I could let him stay at the hotel (we will be at the California Grand hotel so only a short walk from California adventure) for bit on his own after our afternoon rest time?

    This year I just started letting him see a movie without me if he is with a friend and I watch a different movie at the same time. Maybe I could keep moving forward in the same vein and building it up.
     
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    4Mickeys

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jul 29, 2014
    times change and there are too many weirdos out there...
    I also grew up when we had much more freedom as kids - but I do think the weirdos were always there we just heard about it a whole lot less with no social media, multiple news channels trying to fill their shows and that families kept certain things hush hush back then. And you know the really funny thing is the mother that let me have all this freedom is now the grandmother who thinks my kids can't walk less than 5 minutes home from the school bus! yes times certainly do change lol

    Ugh its such a tough call. I'm actually pretty bad about being a hovering mom so maybe the first step should be giving him a bit more independence at home and using this next 6 months to build up to it.

    He loves his cousins but keeping up with little ones is exhausting to the best of us:crazy: and everyone will be happier if my DS doesn't get pushed too far in busy theme park. Also his cousins love him...a lot:love1: ... And that alone can be a bit overwhelming after a while. I know he will need the breaks and I can't think of a better way to give him those breaks but letting him go off on his own for an hour or so. Maybe I could let him stay at the hotel (we will be at the California Grand hotel so only a short walk from California adventure) for bit on his own after our afternoon rest time?

    This year I just started letting him see a movie without me if he is with a friend and I watch a different movie at the same time. Maybe I could keep moving forward in the same vein and building it up.
    This is a really hard decision as a parent but we have to remember the idea is that we are raising them to be independent and move in that direction when we feel they can handle it gradually. I also started off with a movie with friends for my oldest son's independence with them all being dropped off in the foyer and picked up from there I think he might have been 12 when we started that. When we went to Disneyland (from Australia) in 2014 he was 13 and my twins were 10 - I am a single mum so it was just the 4 of us so there were times the kids were sat at a table on their own whilst I grabbed food, the 2 boys went into the male toilets together etc. as my comfort level with their knowledge of the park and our feeling of safety there increased across the span of our stay there were a couple of times when the we split into groups of 2 for a short period of time to maximise ride time, we had a meeting spot and a timeframe and it all went well.

    My oldest is now 15 and has a part-time job if I drive him it is a about a 30-40 minute round trip for me - so a couple of weeks ago I started him catching the bus one way to work - he has about 45 minutes to 'kill' on his own at the shopping centre before he starts his shift - he has a phone with him and is enjoying the independence and freedom. I make sure I run through all the what ifs with my kids and get them to tell me what they think they should do and then amend it from there with them - but I try to get them thinking first.

    Funnily enough - once the older one starts the younger ones tend to benefit at an earlier age e.g. going into the movie with their older brother without me etc.

    I think you will know when you get there if you and he feel comfortable with it.
     

    MsMamaBear

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Mar 29, 2014
    I also grew up when we had much more freedom as kids - but I do think the weirdos were always there we just heard about it a whole lot less with no social media, multiple news channels trying to fill their shows and that families kept certain things hush hush back then. And you know the really funny thing is the mother that let me have all this freedom is now the grandmother who thinks my kids can't walk less than 5 minutes home from the school bus! yes times certainly do change lol



    This is a really hard decision as a parent but we have to remember the idea is that we are raising them to be independent and move in that direction when we feel they can handle it gradually. I also started off with a movie with friends for my oldest son's independence with them all being dropped off in the foyer and picked up from there I think he might have been 12 when we started that. When we went to Disneyland (from Australia) in 2014 he was 13 and my twins were 10 - I am a single mum so it was just the 4 of us so there were times the kids were sat at a table on their own whilst I grabbed food, the 2 boys went into the male toilets together etc. as my comfort level with their knowledge of the park and our feeling of safety there increased across the span of our stay there were a couple of times when the we split into groups of 2 for a short period of time to maximise ride time, we had a meeting spot and a timeframe and it all went well.

    My oldest is now 15 and has a part-time job if I drive him it is a about a 30-40 minute round trip for me - so a couple of weeks ago I started him catching the bus one way to work - he has about 45 minutes to 'kill' on his own at the shopping centre before he starts his shift - he has a phone with him and is enjoying the independence and freedom. I make sure I run through all the what ifs with my kids and get them to tell me what they think they should do and then amend it from there with them - but I try to get them thinking first.

    Funnily enough - once the older one starts the younger ones tend to benefit at an earlier age e.g. going into the movie with their older brother without me etc.

    I think you will know when you get there if you and he feel comfortable with it.
    Exactly!
     

    msmama

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 21, 2009
    My hesitation would be that he's used to DisneyLAND and you're taking him to Disney WORLD. They're both similar (well, MK at least) and different enough to be confusing. My comfort level would have more to do with familiarity of the parks than age and maturity level.
     
  • wench

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Dec 31, 2013
    I've just started leaving my son alone a bit over our last two trips in February & last week. He turned 12 on that February trip. But, my letting him on his own has been fairly limited. For example, we'd both be in Tomorrowland & I let him go get Hyperspace Mountain FP while I used the bathroom by Autopia. Or he'd be riding something while I shopped in a nearby store. In each case there was a meet up point where he had to come back too or a spot where he had to wait until I got there.

    Maybe this is something you could try with your son? Test out the freedom by letting him go on his own, but in the same land that you're in, with some preset rules. If he does well & you feel comfortable, you can always give him more freedom.
     

    firepuppy

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jan 10, 2014
    It took me a long time to let my DS go out on his own. I first started when we were on the cruises. This was a great way to test him and most of all my level of being able to let him go out on his own. Yes we had rules and still have the same rules. He is now 20 and likes a little time to walk around disney by himself, but most of he time he still like to be with me.

    Wench has a great idea worth trying.
     

    Mindertaz

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    May 15, 2015
    It is a tough question and I have read the other responses :-). My son is 10 and ASD, ADHD, SPD, etc. We have also fought a significant separation anxiety, so that is our background, and that may not make sense with my answer. But, I say let him go by himself for a bit, IF he is comfortable with it. I say that with the depending on the following answers: would he go off with a stranger? How confident are you that he knows his way around the park and/or can read the map? Will he lose track of time? Has he ever done any rides/lines by himself?

    The reason I ask those questions is that the answers would be the deciding factor for me. My son would never willingly go with a stranger and the meltdown if someone tried would be brutal. My son knows the parks fairly well and always carries his own copy of the map. My son is extremely fixated on time - so if I said meet me at 2:15, he would watch the clock like a hawk and be there at 2:15 (and he wears a watch). Mine also does single rider regularly on his own or with his sister (because Autism is fun and he likes to ride the same ride over and over and over and can't stop until he gets it out of his system - this is usually just test track at Epcot and Everest at AK). I will usually wait at the exits to the ride for him to get his fill - as long as he is willing to stand in the single rider line to do it, I will usually let him, unless we have another FP or reservation.

    So, in February we were meeting some friends at Epcot. We had just come off of Test Track and were headed to Mexico to meet up. My son couldn't go. He wanted/needed to do test track again. Yes, I could have forced him to go and if it were important, I would have, but he asked me to let him single rider it again and for me and his sister to head over to meet our friends. I told him it would be 30 minutes or so before we could get back and he said fine. Single rider was about 20 minutes. So, he said he would check for us and ride again if we weren't there. We agreed on a meeting spot and that he would go to the spot after each ride. So, we gave it a shot. It worked just fine. Two rides later, we met up at our spot, he had gotten it out of his system, my daughter got to see her friends and another step toward independence was achieved. So, I don't let him run the park by himself, but I am ok with letting him go to a ride and meet up with us at a predetermined spot.

    Two years ago he couldn't pee without someone actually watching, and literally never ever let you leave his line of sight, so please keep in mind where we are coming from. I may let him have more freedom than I should at his age, but we do Disney a lot and it is his happy place - it is also endlessly challenging for him with his ASD. I have learned to listed to what he says - he tells me what he needs and what he is comfortable with - I just have to listen. So, if he wants to try something, he is generally ready (because he takes forever to build up his nerve). So, my answer is - you have to decide whether he would be ok with it. I would ask him and see how he feels about trying it. Do it in really small chunks and see how it goes.
     

    happymommy

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 8, 2006
    One trip with extended family my nephew was 13 and he took the Disney bus to meet up with a friend at the parks (schoolmate). He was fine.

    My kids have waited outside a ride for one another since maybe 6? No big deal.

    I am not familiar with Disneyland, but only you know the kids. To me, by that age they were definitely doing rides and going off a bit on their own! Heck by 8 they were doing rides alone.

    If you feel fine then go for it - I'm sure it's fine.
     
  • Zoesmama03

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    May 21, 2004
    My dad let us(myself and my two brothers) go off at 13,14, 15 together with a meet up time and location. Or approximately those ages anyway. My dd is 12(well by end of July will be 13) and I'd let her go off for a few because she is quite mature and responsible. While in San Diego I let her go a few shops down looking with some other kids around her age. 14 and 16 that were there with us. And a week ago we went to the waterpark and I left her laying in the shaded area we had for our drinks towels and such and went back out ot the wave pool. She's quite capable of taking care of herself for short times. We were just waiting at the same place so she was okay. I know when it comes time for our trip she probably won't want to necessarily go off on her own. But if her and my friends 14 year old wanted to go off to a ride I know I'd let them. They both have phones and we could have a meeting time/place. I remember how freeing it felt when my dad let us go off for the hour or two. It was great.
     

    Zoesmama03

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    May 21, 2004
    My kids are only 9 and 2 right now so I don't have personal experience, but I know I have already had this discussion with my hubby...I don't think I would let my older DS go off on his own until he was at least 14 or 15 when we are in a theme park. He also has disabilities (ADHD, OCD, and ASD) that let him have a DAS. If he had a friend to go off with I might let him go by himself at age 13...but we would have a meeting place about every hour and he would have a watch and a cell phone to keep track of him. I am really obsessive when it comes to my kids being a lone...I know when I was growing up my mom use to get me a season pass to Six Flags and I was there with a bunch of friends and we were only like 11 or 12 at the time. She would drop us off and pick us up, but that was a different time back then...times change and there are too many weirdos out there...I just want to make sure I know where my son is at all times...even when we are at six flags water park and he goes off with my hubby while I stay in the wave pool with my toddler, I want to know where they are going and they have to come back and check in with me...I am sort of preparing my son for the "rules" early so when he goes off by himself nothing really changes for him. Anyways thats just my view on things, but I just like to know where my kid is at all times...I am a little over protective though, lol
    Yep back in the day we were dropped off at 11-12. My mom used to drop us off at the public pool. Of course lifeguards were on duty but no direct supervision provided. Now a days people freak out at stuff like this. The world is no less safe now. In fact in many ways crimes have gone down, if anything. It can drive me crazy the way people can get up tight about kids going to the park alone. When I was 8 we walked half mile or so to the school playground all the time ALONE but in groups usually. I understand why some with ASD or other "disabilities" do want to wait a bit longer but in a general sense it drives me crazy because it's limiting our youth.
     

    Kindermouse

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Mar 6, 2016
    I know I posted this a long time ago but I figured I'd come back with an update on what we did and how it went.

    At the time of the trip my son was in a very good place-he was on some new medications that worked well for him and he seems to be suddenly growing up. I decided to go for it...a little bit.

    I let him go off for 1 hour 2 times-once when we were waiting inline to meet Mickey and Minnie at the Halloween party (we waited so long that they changed out to donald and daisy by the time we got there). The line was about 45 minutes and he hates character pictures and the little kids were really pestering him becuase they were bored. It was the perfect time for a break. He seemed a little nervous about it but we started it as a test-walk down to space mountain and if you feel comfortable have a ride and then call my phone. We did this and then he loved it and asked to go on big thunder. As a single rider during the party it was walk on, he was in heaven. Then a couple days later I let him have a ride and buy us all churros while the little kids and I were waiting for world of color in the dining package area. I used our stroller to hold his spot and he had his fast past and phone. Once again it was a great experience.

    It has really lit a fire in him for being more independant-which he really wasn't before that. He actually hadn't even ridden a ride by himself before that-he was to anxious without me there as a security blanket. But I think he also just needed to know he could do, and it would be ok. His ability to do it successfully built up his confidence and made him proud of himself. it was a really good trip.
     

    luvmy2babies

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Apr 23, 2010
    Glad to hear things went well. My daughter is 14 and I’m considering letting her have some “me” time on our trip in two weeks. Just don’t tell my mother.


    I know there will likely be several rides she will want to sit out. Ds doesn’t know about the trip; but at his last checkup he was talking about the stuff he wants to try next time because he is taller now. We haven’t been in 3 years. He’s grown from 38 to 48 inches in that time. Her alone time is going to be mostly waiting while ds and I ride something or do a character meet she doesn’t care to do; but I don’t want her to have to sit in one spot if there is something close by she wants to do.


    She has a phone and I’ll make sure she has her portable charger (and I have mine). I’m going to load a gift card for her to carry as well. I’m also going to give her the option of staying at the resort if/when we go back out in the evening. She isn’t much on going back out after an afternoon break. I figure it will not only give her more freedom; but me as well. I have always gone alone with her and her brother and I am looking forward to possibly trying some things I have never been able to do.


    We have been working on certain things at home already because her pediatrician has noted she may not get much taller. She’s 5’2” and 107 pounds and I want her to feel comfortable walking around certain places at her size as it is not likely to change.
     

    allisonw

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Jan 18, 2009
    i'm going in November with my three kids. 13, 9 and 20 months. I wanted to utilize riderswap and have the 13 year old wait at the que with the toddler but she said she wasn't comfortable with it. She won't want to go off on her own. She's not the adventurous type, she likes her mama. for now. i'm sure that'll change any moment. lol. you know best though. does he/she have a phone? I think that'd be a deciding factor for me.
     


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