Have you ever attempted a shopping trip with your child (with or without autism) and your child had a meltdown? Like absolutely positively just lost it??? You consider ditching the cart and making a beeline for the front door but then think to yourself, “If I leave every time this happens I will never get any shopping done!” So you push through trying to grab just a few more items from your list before rushing the checkout line and getting everyone and everything safely into the car… Sound familiar?
During these moments, wouldn’t it be nice if someone looked at you with genuine understanding and said “I understand” or asked if there was anything they could do for you or your child? Is it so far-fetched to think one stranger might offer another a helping hand? Maybe they don’t say anything. Maybe they just see you coming, carrying your child who is in meltdown mode and they hold the door for you, sending a smile your way to show they genuinely understand. Smiles can speak a thousand words, and we need more smiles that speak to understanding and compassion.
So here is my challenge to everyone reading this article, whether or not you have children or any experience with special needs. Read the following suggestions from moms that we polled that have children with special needs. Then try one of these responses next time you encounter a mom with a child in meltdown mode in a store. AND, remember, ANY child can go into meltdown mode. This list is not exclusive to moms with children who have special needs. This is a list that applies to ALL moms with children who may go into meltdown mode, as many children do at some point during childhood! So bookmark it and keep it handy in case you can’t remember how to respond next time you see a child melting down in the grocery store.
So what is a helpful response according to our moms polled?
- A sincere, kind smile that bares no judgment
- Saying, “it’s okay”
- Asking, “do you need a hand?”
- Providing crowd control and helping a mom exit the store with her child if that’s what she expresses she would like to do
- Holding a door open for a mom carrying her child who is kicking and screaming (in full on meltdown mode) so she and her child can safely exit the store
- If talking to the mom seems to upset the child further and the mom is not very responsive, she is telling you she’s got it under control and doesn’t need your help, respect that!
- Avoid staring at the mom and child. They don’t need an extra set of eyes judging them as they try to diffuse the situation.
- If you have been there, empathize with the mom. Let her know, you were in her shoes not too long ago and offer a helping hand. After all, chances are if you are a mom with a child (with or without special needs)…you’ve been there!
And I have one last suggestion, made by one of our mama’s polled. This suggestion is for the moms of children who often meltdown mid shopping trip. When someone is being judgmental, staring you and/or your child down, and sticking their nose in your business when it is not welcome, look that person in the eye and say:
“S/he has ________ (autism/SPD/apraxia/etc), what’s your super power?”
Comment below and let us know what you usually do to help a mom with a child in meltdown mode. We love hearing from you!