You’re out in public and everything is going great … until your grandchild goes into full-on meltdown mode. You’re embarrassed, frustrated and wishing you had stayed home. How you deal with your grandchild’s public meltdowns will not only help you manage today’s meltdown with less stress but will also set the stage for how your grandchild handles their feelings in public in the future. Depending on the relationship you have with your grandchild will determine the effectiveness of these strategies below.
Address Your Grandchild’s Feelings
You’ve been shopping for two hours and your four-year old grandchild has had enough. You can see the meltdown coming in 3, 2, 1. Blast off!
You may be horrified at their behavior but don’t be dismissive. Address your grandchild’s feelings without trying to shut them down. Acknowledge that you’ve been shopping for a while and you know they want to go home to play with their toys. Tell them you’re trying to finish up so you can get home but you need then to stop crying so you can. It’s common to want our grandkids to hush so much because of our embarrassment that we gloss over our grand-kids’ feelings. But addressing those emotions and teaching them how to deal with their feelings not only helps them, it ultimately helps you too.
Use the Art of Redirection
Sometimes our grandkids get so overwhelmed in the heat of the moment that they simply don’t know how to calm themselves down. Redirecting your grandchild can be a lifesaver when you think that public meltdown is never going to end.
Instead of feeling like you’re practically begging them to stop crying to no avail, try to redirect them to pull them out of the “world is ending” mindset. Sometimes redirecting to another activity can stop the meltdown in its tracks. For example, “Let’s get those tears wiped up and you can help me pick out some wrapping paper for your grandmother’s present.”
Avoid the Bribe
It’s tempting to bribe your way out of a public meltdown but do try to avoid the bribe. What a grandchild typically learns from the being bribed is that their meltdown gets them something good.
So, while you save yourself now, you end up setting yourself up for the next meltdown when your grandchild expects you to offer up something to stop them screaming. However, you are not failing as a grandparent if you do offer up a bribe. Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do. Avoid the bribe if possible but assess the situation and decide for yourself if you want to offer a bribe to tame the tantrum.
Keep Your Calm
Your grandchild is screaming and you want to scream out of both frustration and just to be heard. Of course, no amount of a grown-up screaming is going to help the situation.
Keep your calm during the meltdown. Follow the discipline rules you’ve outlined at home and your grandchild is used to. Simply tune out the passersby gawking at your grandchild sprawled out on the floor. Look past your grandchild’s over-the-top emotions and out-of-control reaction. Count to 10. Take a deep breath. Do whatever it is you do to keep your calm and keep grand-parenting frustrations under control, not because you’re in public but simply for your grandchild’s sake.
The calmer you are, the quicker they’ll come out of the meltdown and the better they’ll learn to handle their own emotions by modeling your behavior through the stressful situation.
Don’t Give In
Your grandchild has just emptied the store shelf of all the candy bars to show their outrage that you won’t buy them one. You could give them a candy bar and instantly stop this meltdown but, like the bribe, what do you think will happen the next time you’re out in public and your grandchild wants something?
Some parenting battles you simply don’t have to win. Others are worth standing up for so you don’t lose all control every time you go out in public. When dealing with your grandchild’s public meltdowns, don’t give in to their demands, no matter how much you want that screaming to stop. If you have to take them out of the store to get them to get them back under control, then leave your shopping cart behind and go.
You don’t want them to learn that their knee-jerk reaction is the way to manipulate you.
Know You’re Not Alone
If you’re a grandparent, you’ve been there. You’ve seen the stares, maybe even heard the comments, felt others judge you and you feel like you’re the only one who’s ever had a grandchild act this way in public. You’re not.
We love our grandkids and they’re wonderful. But they’re also unpredictable, sometimes frustrating and even quick to embarrass us when we’re in public and they see our desperation to get them to snap out of that meltdown.
You’re not alone and everyone who’s been called grandma or pawpaw has had a grandchild go in freak out mode when out in public. And for those who don’t have grandchildren or have conveniently forgotten that their own children pulled the same kind of stunts in public, just remember they were kids once and did the same things to their parents too!
Move Away from Other People
It always seems your grandchild’s meltdowns occur in the middle of the store where everyone is trying to shop. Instead of just having to deal with your grandchild’s public meltdowns, which can be difficult enough, they have chosen a spot that seems to be center stage.
While it’s hard to convince your grandchild to get up and have their meltdown over there out of the way, try to do just that. Dealing with a meltdown is stressful on you and even on your grandchild. An audience just heightens that stress to another level neither of you need. Help them off the ground, guide them away from the store’s traffic, do whatever you can to get them somewhere more private in the store, which can relieve that tension and anxiety you both are feeling from being on display in the middle of the store. Without the audience, it will also be easier for you to get them to listen to you, so you can put the meltdown behind both of you.
Devise a Strategy for Next Time
Any time your grandchild has a meltdown, take some time to relive it. This will help you identify the trigger that caused the meltdown so you can avoid it or at least prep your grandchild to get through it next time.
You can’t always predict what will send your grandchild’s emotions unto overdrive. But you can strategize ahead of time so you’re better prepared when the next meltdown happens while you’re out in public.
Remember meltdowns may not be preventable but they can be handled in predictable ways when you are prepared and you have an emergency plan in place. So, don’t leave home without one.