A psychologist advises: How to survive shopping with small children

Article

20. 03. 2024

Shopping with children is a very common topic. Especially in the period when children are developing their independence, shopping is sometimes difficult for parents. If we decide to go shopping with our children, it is good to make a rather less extensive plan of all the places we need to visit and things we need to buy.  “Practical tips include knowing where the toy store is located and planning your path through the shopping centre in advance to eliminate the potential problem of being talked into buying a new toy. Or plan to visit the toy story in the middle or at the end of your visit to the shopping centre,” says Mgr. Kateřina Halfarová, LL.M., a psychologist at Canadian Medical’s AFI clinic.

When children get lost in the store

If your children are already older and you are worried that they might get lost in a larger shopping centre, I recommend agreeing on a place to meet if anyone gets lost. The key thing is to find an appropriate place that is very easy to find and that your child knows. I recommend doing this even outside the shopping centre, for example when visiting an unfamiliar city or on an excursion. It is also appropriate to discuss with your children the rules on how to behave in the shopping centre in any case, not just if they get lost. We can also demonstratively show children what they can do if they get lost. You can go together to a shop assistant and show them that it is possible to tell her that they are lost.

Shopping centres have very well-thought-out procedures for resolving these situations, which can provide a little reassurance if you feel any stress, which can happen.

If such a situation occurs, try not to panic, don’t run impulsively from place to place. You can report the situation at the nearest shop, and you can go to the place where you agreed to meet in case anyone gets lost. If there are several of you, one can wait where the child got lost and the other can go to the agreed place. Shopping centres usually announce such situations over the PA system.

How to deal with tantrums

I also encounter a number of questions about children’s temper tantrums when shopping, for example in a situation when a child wants you to buy something and you don’t buy it. The child may lie down on the floor, scream, kick, throw things. This is an unpleasant situation, as parents are often under the scrutiny of other shoppers. In this situation, I would recommend not making significant changes to your usual behaviour, for example because of other people in the store. It is also not an appropriate time to seek agreement with the child or for explaining or arguing. Children appreciate your calm reaction and keeping boundaries. There isn’t any shared joy from a toy purchased in this situation. You can try to calm the child, tell them that you see that they like the given toy and even that you might like it, but it isn’t necessary to buy it right now. It can often happen that other shoppers may comment on or judge the situation very harshly. Try not to respond to such comments, which can be a source of conflict and will not help to calm the situation. Or tell the commenters that you hear their opinion, but you can handle the situation on your own. Every parent has experienced similar situations, so it’s not necessary to feel that you are the only one in the whole shopping centre who has ever been in such an unpleasant situation.

Children learn during shopping

Shopping with children can also be an opportunity for them to develop and learn. We can also talk to children about shopping in advance. After all, we can even pretend to go shopping at home. Depending on your child’s age, you can set tasks that you want to learn, discover and explore together. Shopping itself is also important for children, as they learn to prioritise for fulfilling their needs, including wishes and dreams. Today’s shopping centres are also a resource for gaining experience in finding one’s bearings in an oversaturated environment of offers and attractions. Children can gain this experience together with their parents. Another important thing is whether you make a shopping list and how you make it, as well as how you react to other enticements to buy, what you spend a long time looking at, and what attracts your attention. Children observe all of these things and thus also learn necessary skills for themselves. We can thus help children to learn many things in this way. And subsequently, talk about it at home.

 

       

Mgr. Kateřina Halfarová, LL.M., a psychologist at Canadian Medical

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