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  • Aviva Nirenberg

Tips for an Enjoyable ADHD-Friendly Holiday Season




1) Keep the basics of ADHD self-care in mind. As I always stress with my clients, the foundation of great ADHD management begins with optimizing diet, exercise, and sleep. For yourself and your child/ren, even during holiday season, ensuring a relatively balanced healthy diet, regular physical activity, and quality sleep will have a huge impact on minimizing ADHD symptoms.


2) Plan ahead and choose how you will spend your holidays. I’m assuming that in light of Coronavirus there will be fewer events competing for your attention this year. In any case, whether it’s family get togethers, cookie making, a nature hike, or an ice skating outing. Having a rough but flexible schedule allows you and your children to know what to expect and lessens difficulties with transitions. In addition, you can choose in advance how much time you will spend at events that may challenge you or your child’s capacity for emotional regulation. If Jenny gets bored at Grandma’s after an hour either limit the visit to an hour or bring along an activity to keep her occupied. If it’s difficult to discuss politics with your brother-in-law without flying off the handle, create a plan to calm and ground yourself before your emotions escalate.


3) Don’t neglect down-time. Allow your family unscheduled time to relax. Ensuring that you and your child have time for a nap, to play with a new toy, do a puzzle, or take a walk will give your family the opportunity to recharge and will help you to maintain your sanity and help your child to restore calm and avoid potential melt-down from a demanding schedule.


4) Simplify gift buying and avoid impulsive spending. Decide your budget in advance to avoid overspending. Make a list of who you will be buying gifts, how much you would like to spend and potential gift ideas. Consider a gift certificate to their favorite store. For you this saves the time and energy spent shopping for the perfect gift and guarantees that the recipient will genuinely enjoy the gift. Also, set boundaries for yourself around the amount of time you will spend shopping according to what your schedule allows. For example, I will spend 2 hours total at the mall and visit specifically these 3 stores.


5) Let go of expectations of yourself and your children. It’s hard to banish the fairy tale images of a harmonious family around the beautifully adorned holiday table. However, these scenes exist only in fictional stories or in a single moment captured and posted on social media, but do not exist in real families. Another important reminder, children with ADHD have a 30% lag in developmental maturity. That means your 12 year old child with ADHD may only be capable of behavior of a typical 8 year old. The best way to avoid frustration and disappointment is to adjust your expectations.


6) Let go of what your family and friends think. No one can understand you and your families unique challenges and therefore they have no right to judge. I realize that the opinions and comments are very hard one to relinquish, but if we can let go, even a little, the emotional freedom is well worth it.


Have a calm and happy holiday season!

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