Managing a Child's Behavior While Shopping in Holiday Crowds
Parents of kids with behavioral issues and processing disorders know that there's no such thing as a simple trip to the store when the kids are in tow. Crowds can stress and agitate these children, and stress leads to tantrums and breakdowns. Then there's the fact that shopping is boring for most kids, especially those who have hyperactive tendencies. Because bored and agitated kids may either act out or wander off, taking them shopping isn't fun for anyone.
All of that makes holiday shopping a huge challenge for parents of kids with these issues. This year, get those big Holiday discounts with minimal stress by preparing yourself and your child for one of the biggest shopping times of the year.
Set the Stage
For a child who is overwhelmed by shopping on a typical day, holiday crowds can be a terrible shock. Manage kids' reactions by preparing them for exactly what's going to happen. Talk about how crowded the store will be, how noisy it might be and how long you might have to wait in line. If your child has specific triggers that set him off, like beeping car horns, talk about whether they might be present on Black Friday and remind him of some coping strategies he can use to stay calm when those triggers happen.
Before leaving home, dress your child in something brightly colored and noticeable, just in case he does try to wander off. Wear something that makes you easy to spot, too. If he has noise-canceling headphones, fidgets, a weighted vest or other items that soothe him, suggest that he wear or bring them to the store.
Before entering a store, offer a few quick reminders about what the environment inside will be like. Set clear behavioral expectations: tell your child that you want him to stay by your side, follow your directions and let you know if he's becoming too overwhelmed. You may even want to name a reward that he'll earn if he behaves the way you want him to.
Inside the store, offer lots of encouragement and praise for his positive behavior and let him know how much longer it will be before you leave. No matter how well he copes with the crowds and noise, keep in mind that he might hit his breaking point at any time – so avoid small talk and browsing, and let your child know that you're going to accomplish your tasks as quickly as possible.