We all have to wait from time to time—in supermarket lines and traffic, at restaurants and doctors’ offices—and sometimes we must wait with our children. Successfully managing waiting time with a young child starts with adjusting everyone’s expectations—yours and your child’s.
For example, you know that a trip to the grocery store with your young child will likely take longer than the same trip made when you are alone, and enjoying a long, adult conversation without interruption at a restaurant may be unrealistic if your youngster is with you. The reasons are developmental—a young child’s conception of time is not fully developed, and young children are not yet able to control their emotions. If you can accept those realities on the front end, it will help you be more tolerant and flexible during your experience.
Then you can help your child manage his or her expectations too. On the drive to the store, for example, discuss what is expected and the ground rules for the trip. “I will buy you one snack today, an apple or an orange. Which would you like?”
In addition to adjusting expectations, plan ahead with some activities and routines. For example, take some paper and a colored pencil to the store so your child can write or draw the things he or she sees and wants. Creating a list satisfies the immediate desire for something, and the process will help your child practice planning and thinking ahead. You can also have a bag of safe, age-appropriate toys for waiting occasions, and you can make the bag special by using it only during waiting times.
Adjust expectations and plan ahead, so waiting time is easier much more of the time.