Northern Beaches Mums Group
Northern Beaches Mums Group

Read the signs to help prevent shopping centre drama at Christmas

With Christmas on its way, a simple trip to the shops can be daunting if you have small children. Here are some tips on making Christmas shopping as hassle-free as it can be, thanks to Triple P International.

You can spot dark clouds brewing and know when it’s time to pack up and leave the beach. You know when the traffic’s building up and can time it just right to leave work before your boss asks you to ‘just do something quickly’. But are you just as good at spotting Christmas shopping problems with kids before they happen?

Dad of two Brendan Soustal says he used to approach shopping like many busy parents: 

“I would have a lot of errands to run and have to go and do the shopping. Normally it would be a case of [me telling his young daughter] ‘we’re doing this and this and this’ and if she wasn’t playing the game, we’d have fights and hissy fits – from both of us,” he jokes, recalling one memorable Christmas shopping tantrum in the middle of a suburban mall. “But what I found was I could start to see a lot of her trigger warnings: ‘you’re getting tired, okay you’re going to lose it if we don’t get out of here.”

After doing the Triple P – Positive Parenting Program, Brendan found out something that was counter-intuitive. It turned out to be easier and more efficient to go home, give his young daughter something to eat and drink and put her down for a nap, then go out again later.

Triple P International Country Director and co-author of the Triple P – Positive Parenting Program®, Carol Markie-Dadds, said that shopping with children can be stressful at the best of times, but with a little planning, Christmas shopping can be a great opportunity to inject some holiday cheer and provide some teachable moments about good shopping habits and being patient.

“Preparing children for what they can expect on the shopping trip and involving them in the experience, such as helping to make a shopping list and choosing and buying the items, gives them a sense of connection and responsibility – it’s like having your own team of Christmas elves!” Ms Markie-Dadds said.

Below are Triple P’s top five tops that parents can try these holidays.

 Top 5 tips for hassle-free Christmas shopping

  • Plan ahead! Choose the least hectic time of day that suits your child’s routine.  We all cope better when we’re calm and not tired or hungry.
  • Talk before you go. Explain what you’re shopping for and involve you child in the plan around where you’re going and what you’re planning to buy.  Let them know what you expect of them. Give them one or two jobs to do like choose the Christmas napkins, bonbons, or other items on your list.
  • Keep it short. Several brief trips are often better than one marathon shopping adventure. If your trip goes longer than planned, stop for a snack or drink. Break up the trip by doing something your child enjoys, like the free Christmas entertainment many shopping centres offer. 
  • Tune in and have fun.  Be present with your child on the trip – talk, laugh and have a jolly good time together. Let your child know when they are doing something you like.  Give them a smile, a hug or another sign of affection to let them know they are loved, and their behaviour is appreciated.
  • Encourage kindness and goodwill to others. If your children are buying gifts for others, talk to them about what they want to buy and the best stores to visit before you set out – praise them for thinking of others and showing some Christmas spirit.

Over the break, families can do online programs such as Fear-Less Triple P Online, Triple P Online, and Teen Triple P Online, or download the guide to parenting during COVID-19, at Some support is available in Arabic, Spanish and other languages.