Holiday Tips for Parents of ADHD Kids

The holiday season is potentially a wonderful time of the year for fun and special times.  School is out, routines are relaxed, there is more leisure time, more treats to eat and there is more time to spend with friends and family.  But it also comes with potential pitfalls such as increased worry, frustrations, sad memories, disappointments and fear.  This is true for most families but it is particularly true for parents with LD children such as ADHD.  The following are some ideas that might reduce stress during the holiday season.  Please join the conversation and if you have a tip please tell us and we will post them on our web site.

1.    Maintain Structure and Rules:  It is understandable to relax the house rules during the holiday season.  After all when school is out every day is a “Saturday”.  It is okay to bend the rules but make sure that your child clearly knows what is expected, except able and what is not.  Children operate best when they understand the rules and expectations at home as well outside the home.

2.    Review Behavioral Conduct:    Before you go out with your child, whether it is to the mall, going to a movie or going  out to a friend’s place or visiting family always review  what the plan is including   your expectations and the rules of conduct.   Be specific rather than providing general comments.  Do not assume your child know what is expected of him/her.

3.    Anticipating Triggers:  Know the situations that can be hard for your child so intervene early to avoid a meltdown.  As one parent suggested, have an “escape plan” that you can activate when things are not going well.  This is especially relevant during the holiday season when high demands are placed on you and your child.

4.    “Visiting Both Parents”:  The holiday season poses unique issues for children whose parents do not live together.  It is critically important that children (where appropriate) are given ample opportunities to see both parents.  Therefore, agree on a “visitation plan” and convey this plan to your child.  Yes, it is difficult, awkward and even emotionally painful, but focus on your child and make it a pleasant experience for him/her.

5.    Medication Changes:  If you are contemplating changing your child’s medication by either increasing or decreasing the dosage please do so only after consulting with your family physician and or mental health professionals.  Be certain that you are aware of the benefits and disadvantages of your decision.  It goes without saying that both parents have to be in agreement with this decision.  For older children asking for their opinion is extremely important and they need to be part of the decision making process.    However,   remember that ADHD doesn’t take a holiday and given the many challenges children with ADHD face during the holiday season, this may not be the best time to take a break from medication.

6.    Develop a Resource List:  Make a list of programs and make inquiries of programs and other community resources that might be suitable for your child during school break.  While you are at it, make a list of trusted and understanding friends and family members that can assist you with chores and child care.  It may come in handy and besides you and your child may welcome the break from each other.

7.    Live Within Your Means:  The biggest stressors during the holiday season are money (or lack of) and time (or lack of).  It is hard but these are two things within our control.  It is important to live within your budget, operate within your time limitations and more importantly keep your expectations in proper prospective.  Keep things simple.

8.    Practice patience.  Bad things happen!!  Arguments, meltdowns, misunderstandings, frustrations, conflicts etc. are going to occur.  These things happen in every family so you are not alone.  The best advice is to practice patience and tolerance.  What you don’t want to do is get emotionally stuck in anger and resentments.  Sometimes you just have to let things go and stop letting let bad events define who you or your children are as people.  Embrace the good moments.

9.    Ask For Your Child’s Opinion.   Parents should always have the final say on important matters but children should also be allowed to express their opinion or matters that affect them.  It is a sign of respect them you ask them for their input.  Let them participate in the family holiday plans.

10.    They Need Exercise:  If children had their way they would sit all day and watch T.V. or play video games.  These activities have their place and all children need some “down time”   but don’t let these things consume their day.  Children, especially children with ADHD need a healthy dose of physical activities every day.  Children need to burn off lots of energy so plan their day around physical activities.  Keep them busy!  Having said this, remember that they also need structured quiet down time.  So do you.

11.    Transitioning Back to School:  Holidays are going to come to an end and just like you had to plan for holidays you also have to plan to help your child successfully transition back to school and the return to the typical routines of home.   It might be helpful to think of a creative ritual to saying good bye to school.  A family supper or a conversation about the best moments of the holiday season comes to mind.  It is also an opportunity to get them excited about returning to school.

PS. There is a new Facebook resource for parents.
And Happy Holidays from the Learning Disabilities Association of Manitoba!

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