Five Simple Ways to make your Holidays “Merry and Bright”
Most people I know love the holidays. There’s lots of opportunity to enjoy family and friends, time off of work, gift giving and receiving, and of course, eating special home-cooked meals. But for many families with ADHD, it can very quickly become a miserable time of the year. Instead of enjoying it, we end up exhausted and overwhelmed. To avoid the burn out and maximize the fun, here are five ADHD friendly tips to make your season “Merry and Bright.”
1. Set Your Intention
This means taking the time to slow down and really think about what you want. It means planning and designing a vision and then setting yourself up mentally and emotionally to make it a reality.
So take some time. What do you want this holiday season? Do you want to spend more time with friends you don’t normally see? Do you want to go out and celebrate with family? Do you want to just stay at home in your pajamas all day?
Now, set out to spend your time and energy around the things that match your vision. This will involve cutting things out and saying “no." You can do it!
2. Check and Adjust Expectations
I know our intentions are good–and we really want to create ‘magical” experiences for our kids. But have you ever "dragged" your kids into the "holiday spirit" only to end up with a public meltdown? At the end of it everyone's unhappy and wishing they'd never left home. To have a better outcome, take into consideration your child's abilities, wants, and desires. Make sure your vision is achievable for your kids. That means it's realistic and doable for everyone.
3. Include Your Kids In The Plan
Hand in hand with adjusting your expectations is including your kids in the decision making. I'm surprised how often I hear parents making wonderful plans for the holidays without ever mentioning it to their kids. That is a recipe for disaster. Spend some time discussing different ideas. Ask your kids which activities they would find enjoyable and realistic for them to participate in. Then write them all out and choose together which events or activities you will participate in.
Here’s a tip: Choose just a few and make them as “optional” as possible.
4. Give Them a "Break"
Whatever activity or outing you finally decide on, make sure to walk through the expectations and brainstorm together for possible obstacles along the way. For many of our kids the sights and sounds can become overwhelming and things can start to feel like “too much." To prepare for these moments, talk about ways that they can take a break. Two things that always helped my kids were finding a place they could go to "re-charge" and having a “sensory” or “soothing" backpack. In the backpack were things that they could do to help themselves de-stress, calm down, or check out. Again, include them in the process. Some things to consider are: a favorite toy, a fidget, a blanket, a snack, electronics, a favorite book–or all of the above.
5. Have an “Exit Strategy”
And finally, sometimes, despite our best intentions, things just don't go the way we planned. In these situations be prepared to push the "eject" button. A quick way to do that is by creating a hand signal, a wink, or a cue word with your kids that let's you know–"I'm done and it's time to go." Agree to check in at different intervals and be ready. When you talk to your kids ahead of time-more often than not-they will surprise you. For many kids-just knowing that you have truly listened to their concerns and that they are not "trapped" is reassurance enough.
Wishing you a truly “Magical” Christmas, may you and your family enjoy this time together. May you find time to rest, recharge, and most importantly, build great memories together.