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Letting Your Teens Explore Walt Disney World

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Walt Disney World is most commonly known for being a place where the young and the young at heart can have fun together. Walt Disney World for me has a very different meaning, because in many ways it is where I learned the responsibilities of being an adult. As a teenager I came to Walt Disney World with my family many times. The increased responsibilities and freedoms that I took on with each trip are what taught me what being a functioning adult is all about. Building a bond between a teenager and parent is critical. While I’m not a parent, I do remember being a teenager, and the built up trust between me and my parents is what kept me in line and out of trouble. Walt Disney World is a place where I learned how to be responsible for myself, and by proving my parents right I gained their trust.

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I believe that Walt Disney World is a great laboratory to experiment your ability to trust your teen. Here you can allow them the freedom to explore the parks themselves, and learn some basic life skills about being in public without your parents. Obviously not all teenagers are ready for this step. You know what’s best for your child and so I am in no way telling you what’s best for them. I am just here to share my story only for parents who believe their teenager is ready and prepared for the next step in learning the responsibilities of being by themselves.

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In my early teens, about 13 or 14 years old, my family came to Walt Disney World while my dad was here for a work conference. It was on this trip that my brother and I went off to explore Epcot by ourselves. While my brother is older than me, being without my parents made me realize that this was an opportunity. I remember feeling that I couldn’t screw up my opportunity to show them that I could act appropriately without them.



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By gaining the trust of my parents each trip to Walt Disney World meant gaining even more responsibility. In fact my next trip to Walt Disney World was actually a field trip without my parents at all. With just teachers and fellow students I had the chance to take advantage of the Disney Youth Education Series. Being able to have this fun educational experience, and be able to explore the parks with just my friends I realized that I had only achieved this by gaining the trust of my parents. Although the teachers were on Walt Disney World property they did not monitor us every moment of being in the parks. Not wanting to disappoint my teachers, or my parents I was always back to the Disney’s All Star Movies by midnight, which was the time we had to be back. Having my parents trust me to go to Florida without them was a huge boost of confidence that I wasn’t a child anymore.



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At the very end of my senior year of High School my friends and I decided that as a graduation celebration we would go to Walt Disney World. Without parents, without teachers, this trip was on us. My gaining the trust of our parents meant we now could fly to Florida by ourselves. The moment we landed in Orlando International Airport was the first moment I felt like an adult. I was in a different state without my parents or a teacher to watch over us. We were here alone, and we were in charge of ourselves.



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If you have a young teenager and you aren’t sure if they are ready to face being in Walt Disney World alone I completely understand. I feel so fervent about this because in many ways Walt Disney World is where I learned to be an adult. It sounds very weird, but it’s Walt Disney World where I learned the importance of responsibility and maturity.

Stephen "Steve" Porter started going to the parks with his family in 1996. Since then he hasn't looked back! Steve was a cast member participating in the Disney College Program in 2013. Most recently he graduated from Penn State University!






















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