The holidays can be a stressful time for everyone, especially those with ADHD children. There are, however, some things you can do to help keep your ADHD child as well behaved as possible during this busy and hectic time of year.
The Holiday Huddle
The holidays are stressful enough with family parties, work events, gift buying, and the many other responsibilities we find ourselves with during this time. Having a special needs child that is not behaving can make this time more difficult. For kids with ADHD, the holidays can be just as stressful, as the grown-ups are often busy and unable to be as attentive as they are at other times of the year.
We can, however, make this time less stressful for our special needs children and for ourselves by remembering some tips to keep them well-behaved throughout the holidays.
Keep Them as Busy as You Are
One great way to keep your ADHD child well behaved during the holidays is to keep them as busy as you are. Keep them occupied with holiday-related activities like arts and crafts. Get holiday-related books and movies for them to actively engage in. Get creative with this and find holiday board games and puzzles. You can even come up with your own fun holiday activities for them.
You can also play holiday music and encourage the kids to dance or learn the words so they can sing to family and friends when it comes time for events. Another great idea is to get them a disposable camera and put them in charge of taking pictures throughout planning and during parties. This can also encourage them to be a part of planning for these events and help them to feel like they are playing an important role.
Don’t Forget to Stay Consistent with Discipline
While it may be more difficult to remain consistent and attentive during such a busy time, you must remember to continue with your normal methods of discipline. This involves punishment for any unwanted behaviors as well as reinforcement for desired behaviors.
Try to keep the daily routine as normal as possible. But where you can’t keep the daily routine, make sure that the disciplinary routine is unwavering. Consider what holiday plans may trigger undesirable behavior in your child and have a plan ahead of time to keep things in line. Have a backup plan if things go awry so that you can help your child in the ways they may need during such a stressful time of year.
Also remember to communicate with your child about how their routine may change during the holidays. Richard Lavoie M.A., M.Ed. reminds parents to ‘prepare the child for the situation, and prepare the situation for the child’ (Stanberry, 2015). So, not only should you make sure to communicate with your child, but you should also make any necessary adaptations to holiday plans to ensure that your ADHD child will remain as comfortable and calm as possible.
Another way to ensure that they will behave during a time of inconsistency is to verbally express to them how different their schedule may be during the holidays. Make a calendar with events and let them help you make the calendar. Make sure that they know exactly how and where things will happen and let them feel as if they are a part of the planning.
Let Them be Involved
This is another great way to keep your ADHD child well behaved during the holidays. Letting them be involved will keep them busy as well as near to you so that you can monitor their behavior. Take them holiday shopping with you and let them help to pick out gifts for special family members and friends. Let them pitch in on cooking and baking. This can become a great learning experience for them as well as keeping them occupied and out of trouble.
You can even give them extra holiday chores since there will likely be extra cleaning and other necessary housework. If you do this, though, make sure that you are reinforcing their good behavior and rewarding them for any extra work they are helping with around the house. If you plan on traveling for the holidays, let them be involved in the planning. At the very least, ensure that you are communicating travel plans with them. Let them know routes you are taking, how you will travel, how long it will take, etc.
Don’t Let Them See You Stress
Most importantly, you should not stress. While you are making plans with your ADHD child or having them help you, you should make a huge effort to remain calm yourself. Do not let them know that you may be dreading that one aunt or uncle who is coming over. Don’t let them see that you are scrambling to get things done in time. Your behavior and your planning skills are very important for your child to see and mirror, especially during stressful times and/or events.
Don’t Ignore Them
You should never ignore your ADHD child during a time of high stress, no matter how busy you may get. Ignoring sends poor signals for reinforcement and can even be interpreted by the child as neglect. If necessary, ask trusted family members and/or friends for help with your child. Plan out fun activities for the child to engage in with family members, keeping them as active and involved as possible. And never forget that your child and their well-being is the most important thing in your life. Even if you feel you are ‘too busy,’ it never hurts to stop what you are doing to help your child or to make sure they know that you are involved with them and their daily life no matter what.