Even the most wonderful time of the year can have its downsides. And one of the downsides has to do with shopping — specifically, shopping with your kids.
Shopping with kids can be a nightmare even when the shelves aren’t lined with holiday cookies and stocking stuffers.
So we think this advice from certified parent coach Destini Davis is a brilliant solution for your children’s meltdowns on aisle three.
The next time you take your child shopping with you, focus on what they can do instead of what they can’t do.
One of the best ways you can prevent your child from having a meltdown is by redirecting them. And one of the best ways to do that is by giving them a task.
For example, Davis says to tell your child to list two purple things as they go through each aisle. They will be so stuck on the task at hand, that they will forget their fears and anxieties when it comes to grocery shopping.
Davis notes that if you know you are going to be dealing with your child’s big emotions by the end of the trip, why not put that effort into the beginning of the trip in hopes of making it a more positive experience?
“We haven’t had a grocery tantrum in a long time, like years,” Davis says, while also admitting this isn’t fool-proof, and that will probably change now that she said something.
As a parent, you may feel slightly guilty for tricking your child into behaving a certain way. But Davis emphasizes, “It’s okay to trick their brains into focusing on something enjoyable or something that makes them empowered and autonomous.”
Why shopping trips can be so challenging for kids
For some parents, it may be difficult to understand why your child dreads going to the grocery store. And for other parents, you may not see your child’s stress as a big deal. After all, stress is a part of everyone’s life including your children’s.
However, according to DeAnn Davies, the director for early childhood and pediatric psychology at Summit Healthcare, “A store is a very overwhelming place for a young child to be. They don’t just ignore sounds and stimulation like adults or even older children do. They’re taking it all in.”
This means they can’t shut environmental stimulations off like adults do. Even worse, children who are growing increasingly defiant may have worse reactions.
But you have to remember that children don’t have a lot of power or control in their lives. During those frustrating times when they do say no, they are just trying to take control because they feel as if they don’t have any.
Other possible motivations, like trying to gain attention and exhaustion, deplete your child’s self-regulating ability.
When your child is unable to self-regulate they lash out — and there go the tantrums.
As a parent or caregiver, you must make your expectations clear.
Children thrive with routines and structure. When there is no routine or structure, chaos is bound to happen.
The best way to teach your children to self-regulate is by setting the expectations through a set routine or structure. And what better way to do this than by leading by example?
Engage in simple breathing exercises and your child may slowly start to engage with you.
You can also try ranking your feelings on a scale from 1-10. Though it may seem ridiculous at first, your children may start to pause and notice what they are feeling.
Let your child know why you are doing these exercises and don’t invite your child to join until you notice yourself calming down. But if you are at the store with your child and they need help self-regulating, there are a few tricks you can implement into your routine.
To start, give your child options. If you have a partner and they are doing another task, give your child the option to choose who they want to go with.
Next, try planning an activity they can do while you are grocery shopping. You can bring a coloring book to help distract your child from having a full-blown meltdown.
A few other self-regulating techniques you can incorporate include:
- Bring headphones and have your child listen to their favorite music.
- Incorporate skin/touch activities, such as hugs or back scratches.
- Encourage your child to do physical activities such as putting items in the cart.
By incorporating these strategies into your routine, you can make the experience more enjoyable.
And if you’re the bystander watching the kid with “big feelings” having a hard time at the store, remember that their parents could probably use more sympathy and support and less judgment and eye-rolls.
Marielisa Reyes is a writer with a bachelor’s degree in psychology who covers self-help, relationships, career, and family topics.