How to handle the grocery store

I’ve seen it before. The headshakes, the eyes rolling, the judgements, the whispers, and the snickering comments. There stands a mom in the grocery store, her child melting down in the chips aisle, partly because he doesn’t see his favorite potato chips (which are actually there, but the company redesigned the bag). And, there stand the onlookers, thinking that they know what’s happening. Perhaps they are judging you and thinking your kid is spoiled, and that he is having a tantrum because he can’t have what he wants. Or maybe they can totally relate to what you are going through. Your face starts to get red, you are sweating, and you feel like crawling on the floor with your child and burying your head in the bags of chips.

Wouldn’t it be nice if other people stopped what they were doing and just asked, “What can I do to help you? I see you are having a hard time?”

So, now you are not only dealing with your child screaming, laying on the floor, and now biting himself, but you have to deal with the emotions that come with being stared at in a store. So, you pick up your child, console him as best you can, and leave the store (and your cart that is filled with groceries remains in the chips aisle).

It’s not easy. Days like this are a struggle, but here are some helpful strategies to get you through it.

To prepare you and your child for a grocery store outing (and yes, you should take him with you).

1. Before you leave, go online and show your child pictures of the grocery store. Explain to him and show him where you are going.
2. Go to the store during a time that is not super busy. Early mornings are usually best. You can even call the store ahead of time, speak with a manager, and explain your situation. Ask the manager to recommend a time when the store is not packed with people.
3. Create a short food list (5-10 items) with your child. If possible, include pictures of the food. Put him in charge of checking or crossing off the items as you purchase them in the store.
4. Create some visual rules, so he knows what to expect. Review the rules before you leave the house, in the car on the way to the store, as you are walking in with him, and while you are in the store.
5. Prepare a sensory bag for him so that he is equipped to handle all of the overwhelm. Include the following items in this bag: headphones or earplugs (or both), an mp3 player to listen to music if he finds this calming, a jacket (in case he gets cold), sunglasses to help him handle the bright lights, and some fidget toys for him to hold onto.
6. Once you get to the store, give him the shopping list and the fidget toy. By giving him something to focus on you are helping him handle the world around him. You could even ask him to push the cart.
7. Constantly reinforce him by telling him what a great job he is doing following the rules.
8. Make this a short trip in hopes of having a great experience.

The sole purpose of this excursion is to expose your child to the grocery store, have a positive experience, and set him up for success. After you both have accomplished the task of purchasing the items on your list, celebrate by doing something that your child loves. Play a video game with him at home, have a 15-minute dance party, or eat something delicious that you bought at the store!

What are grocery store excursions like for you and your child? Do you have any added recommendations that you find most helpful? Please share below.


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1 Comment
  • Joanne kocur
    Posted at 07:08h, 15 December Reply

    My trips are more department store problems. My girl is 15 and still wants toys.
    We always start with rules we can look but we are not buying. She will agree repeat the rule several times but as soon as she sees something that she wants that’s the end of it. The begging begins constant pushing the toy in my face to the point of total embarrassment I then drag her from the store making a scene the whole way. This has just started in the last year or so. It’s not enjoyable to shop anymore

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