The holiday season is upon us and so begins a season of fun and excitement. For some, shopping for gifts becomes a family tradition, taking hours to walk through malls in search of those “perfect” gifts for friends and family.
But for children with anxiety, shopping trips can be a source of dread. Being in large crowds or in unfamiliar shopping malls can increase symptoms of anxiety and trigger panic attacks. By planning for shopping expeditions, parents can help to make holiday shopping more fun for the whole family and limit the triggers that can increase anxiety.
Take several short trips to the mall rather than making one long shopping trip.
Children with anxiety may be better prepared to cope with a shopping trip when they know exactly how long they will be at the mall. For older children, let them wear a watch to keep track of how much time has passed and how much longer the shopping trip will take. Making several short trips to the mall may mean spreading out holiday shopping into several trips rather than completing it all in one day, but it may end up being more enjoyable for everyone.
Talk about the shopping trip before you leave home.
Children with anxiety may be better able to cope with anxiety when they know exactly what is expected of them and what they will be doing before leaving. Let them know how long you will be shopping, what stores to go to. Determine a meeting place and time for older children.
Feed children before heading off to the mall.
Children will always react better to situations if they are not hungry. Plan trips to the mall for after meals.
Pack snacks and drinks for children.
Shopping trips can be long and being hungry and tired can be triggers for anxiety. Make sure you have some fruit juice and pretzels or another snack to help keep your children from being hungry and thirsty during the trip.
Plan gift purchases before heading off to the mall.
To cut down on the amount of time wandering the mall looking for a gift, use the internet to plan purchases. Write down each person you are buying a gift for and ideas on what you may like to get. If possible, have your children help decide which gift on the list to buy. Involving them in the process can help make them feel useful and provide them with a sense of purpose on the shopping trip.