(KRT) Sometimes you just have to brace yourself and do it. Take a deep breath, strap your kids in the car and take them shopping. In December. You can survive. Here are a few suggestions from the folks at the Grapevine Mills mall in Texas and Wendy Gordon, author of “I’m Safe! At the Mall :”

1. Shop early, before naptime, and before the late-afternoon crankies set in.

2. Take frequent breaks. Shopping ’til you drop may be fun for big folks, but don’t risk a kid meltdown by showing off your retail stamina.

3. Keep them entertained. Encourage them to bring a backpack with toys or books to keep them occupied if you’ll be in one place for awhile. (Rethink this idea, however, if they’re the forgetful types!)

4. Combine many errands into one shopping trip. Check in with Santa, take a holiday photo to insert in greeting cards. Caution: See tips No. 1, 2 and 3 before heading down this path!

5. Prepare children for the fact that you’re not going to buy them everything they see. Let them know whom you’re shopping for and how you expect them to behave.

6. Have fun. Sometimes the best part of the trip can be people-watching and window-shopping. If that doesn’t do it for your kids, allow plenty of time for a meal or perhaps a movie.

7. Have a safety plan. Parents and kids do get separated. Make sure kids know their names and parents’ full names so they can be paged.

8. Explain to your child that if he gets separated, ask a parent with children for help. He shouldn’t go anywhere with another family, of course.

9. Role-play before you go. Pretend you’re the lost child and have your child help you find your way in case you’re separated.

10. It sounds simple, but be aware of your child. Know what she’s wearing; carry a photograph and be able to describe her by height, weight, eye and hair color and unique features.


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