How to Prevent an Epic Public Meltdown

We’ve all been there. You’re halfway through the grocery store, and you see it coming so you recheck your list and rush through the aisles. 2 minutes pass and suddenly you realize half the things on your list are actually not crucial. What has now become priority #1 is getting you and this kid out of store before the volcano your precious child erupts.

There are 3 parts to this that I want to cover. Today we’ll cover the prevention and tomorrow how to deal with your child if the tantrum does happen. Next week’s post we’ll deal with how to handle the public embarrassment and what goes on in you when your child is no longer the angel baby you know they are.


Here’s a checklist of things that can help your child avoid a public meltdown:

  • Food
    • We know hangry is real. It’s especially real for little people. Don’t go to the store with a hungry child. I always try to have a snack in my purse/car just in case our schedule gets a curve ball and we’re not able to eat at normal times.
    • Give your child balanced meals. I have a very picky eater, but she gets protein and fats in every meal. This helps to balance the carbs (aka sugars) that she’s eating so that we don’t get blood sugar surges and crashes. Both lead to meltdowns.
  • Water
    • Yes, also very basic. But our brains need to stay hydrated in order to function properly, and the brain is the engine of behavior.
    • Also, can thangry be a word now too? Because I get cranky when I’m dehydrated.
  • Sleep
    • I usually live to regret taking kids to the store around their nap time. I know it’s unavoidable sometimes. BUT there is no shame in driving around or sitting in the parking lot while they finish a nap.
    • If you really do have to go to the store around a normal nap time or when they haven’t had a good nap, then I recommend keeping the trip down to the essentials. (and reading tomorrow’s post for when they do go crazy)
  • The toy zone
    • Now that I have a child old enough to notice, I will take alternative routes around the store to avoid the toys section. Passing by always results in asking for something. Since I’m trying to lean on the minimalism side of things the answer will probably be no. Therefore avoiding the area altogether avoids the problem in the first place.
  • Sensory needs
    • Be in tune with your child’s sensory needs:
      • Do they seek input in their 5 senses? Avoid it? Depends on the sense?
      • If they’ve had a lot of sensory input that day before your public outing, they may be nearing their threshold and need a quiet, calm break before going out in public with all of its sounds, bright lights, and movement.
    • Gear up
      • If you have a child that avoids sensory input that is on overload in a public place, then gear up with headphones, sunglasses, and calm activities to keep them occupied.

I’ve heard the best offense is a good defense. Preventative measures go a long way. Be in tune with your child’s needs and rhythms. The more you build up positive experiences in a particular place (like the grocery store or church), the more your child will associate that place with pleasant feelings. If your child constantly breaks down at a particular public place, just the sight of it can provoke anxiety and set you up for more eruptions.

But sometimes meltdowns happen, so what then? Tune in tomorrow for some tips and tricks to transform your grocery shopping this weekend!

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