SHOPPING SANITY: Tips for Merry and Bright Holiday Shopping Trips


by Dr. Zach Petter, DC

The holiday gift-giving season should come with joy, as people look forward to shopping for the perfect gift and spending time with family and friends. The hours spent shopping for gifts and party supplies may be exciting, but for children with learning and behavioral disorders, hours spent in a shopping mall can mean endless opportunities to become overstimulated. Shopping trips can become shopping nightmares when children may become restless, fidgety, tired, cranky, and hungry. So much for fa-la-la-la-la.

For some parents, hiring a babysitter to stay at home with their children may be the perfect solution. For others, the holiday budget may not include such a luxury. As someone who specializes in helping children who have learning and behavioral disorders, I offer some techniques to ensure stress-free, enjoyable holiday shopping trips:

  • Break down shopping trips into short excursions, rather than daylong events. Set aside a specific amount of time to be in the mall, and let the children know how long the trip will take. Children often can behave for a short time, especially when they know there is an end in sight. Going to the mall for one to two hours is usually long enough for young children.
  • Avoid shopping on an empty stomach. Children who are not hungry are normally better behaved. Feed children before leaving the house or bring healthy protein-packed snacks and water so children stay full and satisfied. Avoid foods and drinks high in sugar as they can cause a sugar rush and the inevitable sugar crash.
  •  Let children help decide on gifts. Involving children in the gift-giving process helps them to feel important and teaches them the importance of giving gifts, rather than always receiving them.
  • Plan the shopping trip ahead of time. Take time before the trip to make a shopping plan or list with children. Allow the children to take part in crossing items off of the list. This will ease the anxiety of a never-ending shopping day. It will also prepare the child to smoothly transition into what is coming next.
  •  Determine rewards and consequences before leaving the house. Let children know what will happen if they behave well during the time at the mall and what will happen if they do not behave correctly. Rewards can be the playtime after shopping or selecting a new toy or game at the end of the trip. Consequences may be going to bed early or losing special privileges. Remind children throughout the shopping trip of the rewards and consequences.

NA_San_Antonio_12_13_web_version_Page_27_Image_0001Dr. Zach Petter and his wife Amanda own Brain Balance Achievement Centers of San Antonio, which helps children reach their academic and social potential through a unique drug-free, whole-child approach. The Brain Balance program utilizes customized sensory motor and cognitive activity plans, coupled with nutrition guidelines to address the root cause of most learning and developmental disorders. Brain Balance Achievement Centers of San Antonio is located at 1742 N. Loop 1604 E. Suite 121. For more information and additional resources, call 210-620-7378 or visit

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