For a child with ADHD, waiting for Christmas is challenge beyond her capabilities. When Natalie says, “I can’t wait for Christmas!” she means it literally.
by Kay Marner
Christmas is coming, but not fast enough for Natalie.
Do you know that holiday song? “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”
Not at the Marner house. When there is a child with ADHD in the family, the song goes more like this: “It’s the most challenging wait of the year!”
I’ve written before in my Parenting ADHD Children Blog about how hard it is for Natalie to wait for special occasions, and about what we’ve done to try and help her. Making a paper chain, and removing one link each day helped her to wait for her first Girl Scout meeting. It gave her a visual to help her see the progression of time—see that time was passing, that she was getting closer each day to her goal.
With the coming of Christmas, I hoped an Advent calendar would do the same. It’s the same concept—counting down, being able to see the big day getting closer. The calendar I gave her even has a piece of chocolate behind each little window, so it’s kind of like a behavioral reward system.
To my great disappointment, it’s not working. As with many things we’ve tried, what worked once doesn’t necessary do the trick a second time. Sure, Nat likes to open the little windows. She like the chocolate. But it’s doing nothing to prevent her from obsessing about getting a Nintendo DS, a Matchbox space ship toy, and Lucky, the electronic dog--the top three things on her Christmas list. She wants them, and she wants them now!
Aaron gets excited about Christmas too. But for him, this excitement is normal. When he says, “I can’t wait!” he doesn’t mean it literally. When Natalie says, “I can’t wait!” she’s warning you of an impending ADHD meltdown that’s likely to result in physical injury or property damage.
Forget trying to teach her that Christmas isn’t about the presents. And don’t assume that learning to wait is just a matter of normal development—I’m telling you, it ain’t happenin’. My mommy-radar tells me that her inability to handle anticipation isn’t normal.
Is this typical for kids with ADHD? And, if so, does anyone have any advice to share about helping our kids learn to cope with waiting?
If not, then for me, this month will be: “The most patience-trying time of the year.”