ADHD Doesn't Have To Mean A Disastrous Holiday

"Peaceful" may not be the first word you associate with the holidays if you have a child with ADHD, but yours can still be "joyful" if you begin to plan for the seasonal over-anticipation, over-indulgence, and over-stimulation that may aggravate your child's symptoms.

Here are a few tips to help make the most of your holidays and the time you spend with your family.

Set schedules and maintain routines
Start a family holiday calendar. Mark down school vacation, events, and travel plans now. As invitations for parties arrive, add them right away. Set aside days for shopping, gift - wrapping, and cooking. Save time to spend with the family. Remember to plan an extra day for packing.

Unless you've met with your doctor and decided otherwise, the holiday season - Thanksgiving to New Year's - may not be an ideal time for a "drug holiday."

It's important to keep your child on his or her regular medication program as prescribed even during the holiday season, while he or she is away or out of school. The holidays are exciting, and children - especially those with ADHD - need the dependable comfort zone that comes with a routine.

(And monitor your child's intake of sugar and sugar-free treats. Limit the sugar and totally eliminate the sugar-free chemical additives.)

Manage expectations
In many traditions, the holidays are a season of giving, but children tend to see it as a season of getting. It's important for them - and you - to remember: Reality rules.

*If gift-giving is part of your family's holiday tradition, keep your child focused on a few realistic items they really want.

*If you're spending extended time with relatives, provide them with tips about ADHD to help them better understand the disorder.

Visit the Resources Library at for downloadable information.

Advise your child
Let your child know early and often about the family's holiday plans, what's going to happen and when, and how he or she will be expected to behave.

* Help your child brush-up on behavior rules for various situations-the mall, parties, or traveling-and agree on rewards for achieving those goals.

* Include your child in starting the family calendar and keeping it updated.

Remain flexible Once the holidays begin, your family's carefully crafted plan may come apart at the seams.

If you must take your child on a last-minute dash through the mall, discuss it beforehand and work out a mutually agreeable plan and reward.

If your child's hyperactivity erupts, take a deep breath. Collect your thoughts. Remember, it's not a willful act but instead a symptom of your child's disorder. You don't have to let it ruin your family's holidays.

Take care of yourself

Children are sensitive to their parents' moods and may become anxious when they sense fatigue or stress.

* If you get caught up in the holiday swirl, relieve the pressure by giving yourself a time-out in front of the fireplace or with a good book.

* If you have an exercise regimen, build time for it into your holiday schedule.

Keeping all of that in mind, have a happy and healthy holiday season!

For more information
Several websites listed in the resources section of offer a number of strategies for getting through the holiday whirlwind of vacation days, parties, travel, and activities.

There are many tools to help teachers, parents, and children available at

Posted December 2004 | Permanent Link

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