Merry ADHD Christmas!

Article by: Cecilia Marshall, Ph.D.

Christmas is coming . . . . . . how many days left? Can I open my presents early?

Why do we have to eat turkey? I want a new X Box, a red Ferrari and a pony!

Whereʼs the wrapping paper? Has anyone seen the cat?

If this sounds like your house, you may be having an ADHD Christmas!

Having a child (or adult) with ADHD in the family presents special challenges at Holiday time. Common issues such as difficulty waiting, needs for novelty, difficulty remaining seated and emotional reactivity can be aggravated by the over-stimulated environment that accompanies the Holidays.

Here are a few tips that may help:

1. Focus on strengths. While lots of energy and becoming easily excited can be

problems in some situations, they can be helpful in others. Consider ways to channel and harness that ADHD energy with special activities and projects. If your child often becomes excited easily, consider occasionally following his/her lead and get excited yourself: forget the “to do” list and dance a jig, enjoy the lights, sing a song.

2. Provide help with waiting. The Holidays are a time of waiting . . . not usually an easy task for a child with ADHD! Try using an Advent Calendar (if this fits your familyʼs faith tradition) or a paper chain to mark off the days until your familyʼs Holiday celebration begins. It sometimes helps to spread out the celebration and not save all the fun for a single 24-hour period!

3. Maintain routines. While everyone enjoys sleeping a little later and being more

relaxed during the Holidays, maintaining some structure and routine to the days and nights may help avoid conflicts and meltdowns.

4. Avoid the big three: hunger, fatigue, and overstimulation! These factors tend to aggravate the reactivity and impulsivity that can present problems for people with ADHD. The hunger and fatigue can be managed by following the above tip about maintaining routines. Avoiding overstimulation can be a bit more tricky! Planning regular “breaks” can help everybody—breaks from TV, breaks from electronic media, breaks from playing, breaks from opening presents. Make the “breaks” a family affair and see what happens—you may be surprised how much you enjoy them!

5. Speaking of overstimulation . . . what about the gifts? Gift opening is part of the celebration of many faith traditions; but it has also been elevated to a national obsession by the marketing media! Consider developing a ritual for opening gifts one at a time, rather than having a gift-opening frenzy. There are parents who open gifts at some distance from the tree to avoid the temptation to snatch or grab. Open a few gifts; do another fun activity; and then open a few more. You may find that you enjoy this as well! Finally, remember the priceless gifts of love and forgiveness—and give them generously!  In the words of the familiar Holiday tune, “Have Yourself a Merry Little (ADHD) Christmas!”

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