How to Survive an Outing With Your Child

With today’s busy lifestyle, it seems we spend more time running around than just hanging around. Every parent has experienced the challenges of getting the family where they need to be with a minimum of disruption and meltdowns. But there are things you can do to maximize success.

Try these simple tips for helping both you and your child survive when out and about!

Make expectations clear

No one likes confusion and uncertainty as these situations can leave us feeling anxious, irritable, disorganized and even fearful. We often assume our children know what is expected; when in reality they often need a gentle reminder. Your child will more likely adapt to an outing when they clearly understand the destination, the schedule and what the expectations are. “We are going to see Dr. Davis, the dentist. I will be with you the entire time so if you need me I will be right there.” If you have more than one errand to run, let your child know, “First we’re going to the grocery store, then the bank and THEN we will go to the park.” Keep expectations clear, such as, “Remember, I need you to whisper when we’re in the library, just like you do when we’re in church.”

Let your kids help set the schedule

When children are given choices and control within reason, they have more of a vested interest in the plan. Let your child choose which 2 out of 3 errands to run or let them choose which errand you run first. Letting them help plan the day will make them feel more involved and a part of the process.

Keep your child posted on schedule changes

Schedules rarely seem to stay put and some children really struggle with changes to the plan or routine. Let your child know as soon as possible when a change is unavoidable and what the new plan will be. “It looks like Michael is not home. He must have forgotten about our play date. We’ll still go to the park, but we’ll call and see if he can play again tomorrow.” You can even ask your child to help decide what to do next. “Should we call and see if he can play later today or should we try again for tomorrow?” Offering a solution to the problem is sometimes all that is needed to avoid an exaggerated response to the disappointment.

Prepare for the unexpected

Despite our best intentions, things don’t always go as planned. It’s always best to be prepared for delays, boredom, hunger, tiredness, or the need for bathroom breaks by planning ahead. Packing snacks, games, books, puzzles, hand fidgets or the iPad can be a lifesaver in these situations. Being ready to adjust your plan by eliminating a destination or cutting an errand short if delays have extended your outing will ensure both you and your child experience success.

Offer visual supports

As adults, we create visuals such as lists to help us stay organized and on-task. We get such a feeling of accomplishment when we’ve come to the end of our list and can reward ourselves for a job well done. Kids are no different. Providing a picture or written schedule of each destination during your outing will go a long way to preparing your child for each transition and help them understand there is a beginning, a middle and an end to the trip. Social stories that incorporate how the outing will go and what the expectations are can also be helpful. Positioning a fun destination or reward at the end of the visual schedule or social story can provide the motivation for getting through the outing.

Keep your child busy

Kids are more likely to cooperate if they are actively involved during the outing. Giving them a picture list of the groceries they are responsible for getting, letting them give you the directions to your destination, asking them for the answers to simple questions as you’re filling out forms at the doctor’s office can all be ways to avoid behavior problems due to boredom and frustration during less preferred or lengthy outings.

Acknowledge your child’s success

We all appreciate acknowledgement for a job well done. So do your kids! As parents, instead of recognizing and responding to the positive, we often negatively reinforce undesired behavior by giving it more of our attention. Try instead to ignore what you can and find more opportunities to praise your child when they follow directions and do what is expected. They will soon learn that they get more of your attention in these situations than they do when they engage in less preferable attention-seeking behaviors.

With the right planning and above tips, you can make an outing with your child a much more pleasurable experience. At Pediatric Therapies, our purpose is to help your child achieve all he/she can.  Call us today for more information on how we can help!