Averting conflict when it’s time to leave a fun place

Meltdowns can happen with children when it’s time to leave a fun place, but if you plan ahead you might be able to avert “time to go” conflict.

A park or a zoo can be an enjoyable place for families. It can also be exhausting, hot, and overstimulating, so watch for behavior cues from your children and leave before they reach their limit. Are they wanting to sit down more than usual, uninterested in activities or exhibits, or becoming a little irritable? Providing time to rest, a drink, or a snack may help, or you might just need to leave.

Maybe your children are still having a blast but you’re on a schedule and it’s time to go.
How can you head to the exit without a fuss?

If you’re at a place that your children might not want to leave, look for a really fun thing near the exit and save it for last.

Near the entrance and exit of our local zoo is a koi pond, and our children enjoyed feeding the gigantic fish. There wasn’t a fish food dispenser near this pond, so we would buy food inside the zoo and save it in baggies to give these fish later. When it was almost time to leave, I would say, “Who wants to feed the fish?” and with an overwhelming “I do!” we’d head to our favorite koi pond. As soon as the fish pellets were gone, we were already near the gate so we made a quick and conflict-free exit.

Does this sound like I tricked my kids into leaving? Sure. But it worked, and we all left happy. There’s nothing wrong with outsmarting a preschooler. You can be kind, be respectful, be playful, and still be the adult.

As children get older, give them more input into the decision to leave. Say something like, “We have about fifteen minutes before we need to go home. What is the last thing you would like to do before we go?”

If your children grumble anyway, it’s up to you to stay calm. Recognize cheerfully (and as you continue moving to the exit) that your day was really fun, that you’d like to come back again, and talk about your favorite parts of the visit. Don’t ruin a good day by turning the end into a battle. Be smart and have fun!

You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out.

Deuteronomy 28:6 New International Version (NIV)

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