How to help chil­dren have good be­hav­iour out & about

Great Health Guide - - CONTENTS - Deb Hop­per

Tak­ing kids shop­ping is one of those ac­tiv­i­ties that can feel like you are in a bal­anc­ing act, a cir­cus or a night­mare movie. This is es­pe­cially true when pre-school­ers and tod­dlers are con­cerned. On a shop­ping trip, there is a fine line be­tween find­ing and buy­ing all that you need and man­ag­ing chil­dren’s be­hav­iour. Some chil­dren love to sit in the trol­ley and look around and take it all in, but when we think about those night­mare shop­ping trips, it in­cludes pre-school­ers who feel too

big to be in the trol­ley, throw­ing tantrums in the aisle and re­fus­ing to walk, tod­dlers reach­ing out and grab­bing items off the shelf, death stares from fel­low shop­pers and the oc­ca­sional words of ‘ad­vice’ from wellmean­ing oth­ers.

For many par­ents, it’s an ac­tiv­ity they try and avoid with chil­dren. How­ever, some­times there is no choice but to put on the men­tal ar­mour, be pre­pared and go forth and shop!

Rea­sons why some kids find shop­ping dif­fi­cult

Be­fore we get to the tips, let’s take a look at some rea­sons why shop­ping is hard for kids. For many lit­tle ones, the sen­sory de­mands of the shop­ping cen­tre are very over­whelm­ing. When our senses take in too much in­for­ma­tion, our bod­ies can be over­whelmed and they are pushed into a stress-like fight or flight re­sponse. Some parts of the en­vi­ron­ment that con­trib­ute to this stress re­sponse for chil­dren in­clude:

1. light­ing – The light­ing in shops is very bright. Shops need to make the prod­ucts look good and stand out. For some chil­dren this is too much vis­ually and they can’t take it all in. Have you ever had to pop to the shops to grab 2 items when you are re­ally tired? It’s hard to fo­cus and take in in­for­ma­tion and it all looks a blur. For other chil­dren, the light­ing helps ‘wake up’ their sen­sory sys­tem, looks ex­cit­ing and in­creases their en­ergy lev­els and ex­cite­ment lev­els. Your child run­ning around, look­ing and touch­ing items and try­ing to be ‘help­ful’ may not be help­ful as you try to shop.

2. noise – Shop­ping cen­tres are re­ally noisy. Mu­sic, peo­ple and back­ground noise can be very dis­tract­ing for some kids and some kids can find this noise over­whelm­ing as they find it hard to know what to fo­cus on au­di­to­rily. Some chil­dren find this back­ground noise very dis­tress­ing, even if it’s not loud.

3. Vis­ual dis­trac­tions – The con­stant move­ment of peo­ple in shop­ping cen­tres can be very dis­tract­ing for some chil­dren, which means that they may stop and look at some­thing or some­one and be left be­hind as you move on. Or, the con­stant move­ment of peo­ple can be stress­ful to some other chil­dren. The move­ment of peo­ple con­stantly can be all too much and it pushes their bod­ies into a stress fight or flight re­sponse.

As adults we need to be ‘de­tec­tives’ and try and fig­ure out if any of the above rea­sons are im­pact­ing on be­hav­iour and maybe just test out a few of the strate­gies be­low and see what works and helps. In next month’s is­sue of GHGTM, we look at strate­gies to help make shop­ping time eas­ier with chil­dren. For more great tips for help­ing busy chil­dren find it eas­ier cope with daily life, visit my web­site.

Deb Hop­per is pas­sion­ate about help­ing chil­dren achieve their po­ten­tial. A prac­tic­ing Oc­cu­pa­tional Ther­a­pist at Lifeskill­s4kids on the NSW Mid North Coast, Aus­tralia, she un­der­stands the day to day struggles that chil­dren, par­ents and teach­ers face.

Deb Hop­per is an Ama­zon #1 Best Seller author. She is a prac­tic­ing Oc­cu­pa­tional Ther­a­pist at Life Skills 4 Kids on the NSW Mid North Coast, Aus­tralia, she can be reached on her web­site.


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