Daily Tips: Surviving The Holidays

Silent night? We wish! Check out these tips to help you survive the holidays.

Presents, lights, and holiday tips
Presents, lights, and holiday tips

The activity of the holiday season seems to bring out the hyperactivity in our own little angels. Check out this collection of tips to help you survive it.

Create structure – and stick to it

“The symptoms of ADHD don’t take a holiday,” says Patricia Quinn, M.D., a developmental pediatrician in the Washington, D.C. area and author of several best-selling books on ADHD. “The good news is that parents can help manage their child through this disruption to the daily routine, while also making it less stressful for them.”

In a national survey released last month by the New York University Child Study Center, nearly all (98%) parents of children with ADHD who participated in the survey said that a structured routine is important for their child’s emotional, behavioral, or social development. Yet, only 13% reported that they keep their child on a school routine all year. Furthermore, two-thirds (66%) of parents agreed that getting their ADHD child back into a normal routine after time away from school is a hassle.

“One of the most important things a parent can do during the holidays is to create structure and stick to the child’s regular routine as much as possible,” advises Dr. Quinn. This includes following regular medication and behavioral treatment plans. “Adherence to routine may make the back-to-school transition easier for both child and parent. Talk to your child’s doctor before making any changes.”

Results of the Child Study Center survey, called I.M.P.A.C.T. (Investigating the Mindset of Parents about ADHD & Children Today), also revealed that children with ADHD face serious social development issues that affect their relationships with family and friends. Seventy-two percent of parents surveyed reported that their ADHD-diagnosed child has trouble getting along with siblings or other family members. Less than half (48%) said their child easily adapts to new situations. “Family gatherings, shopping trips to the mall, vacations to new places and other situations out of the normal school-year routine create additional challenges for a child with ADHD,” says Dr. Quinn.

The disruption to their child’s normal daily schedule can also affect parents/caregivers. According to the New York University survey, one in three (35%) parents of children with ADHD said they play a major role in their child’s daily routine. Overall, more than half reported being frustrated while helping their child through daily activities. “Parents of children with ADHD face more challenges than other parents in helping their child complete everyday tasks,” says Dr. Quinn. “The holidays can bring about added stress, so parents need to be more patient and understanding of what their child is experiencing.”

Dr. Quinn offers the following advice to parents to help make this holiday season a more harmonious one for ADHD children and their families:

Keep on schedule: Try to maintain your child’s regular schedule, including medication and behavioral treatment, as closely as possible.

Warn about changes: Anticipate and talk to your child about when and where changes to routine might occur. This may involve reminding your child a few days in advance as well as a few times on the day of an event.

Use available resources: Take time to teach your child how to use calendars, organizers, and written reminders to help them stay focused throughout the day.

Develop a travel plan: For plane rides, offer your child the aisle seat so he has plenty of room to stretch and move about. For long car trips, schedule frequent breaks or rest stops in order to get out of the car and move or run around outside. Pack plenty of novel games, toys, and snacks to keep your child occupied.

Going shopping together: Try to shop during off-peak hours when the stores are less crowded. Make sure you start off with your child well fed and well rested. Have patience even though your child may not.

Gift giving suggestions: Prepare your child for the excitement of opening multiple presents to help him focus. An alternative suggestion is to spread out the distribution of presents throughout the day or week.

Recognize every win: Celebrate accomplishments, small and large.

Tips from the Ghost of Christmas Past

Save some toys for later

Don’t hesitate to put a gift toy away for a later time. If a child is bombarded with new playthings, feel free to put some gifts aside and let her focus on one at a time. You may even want to reserve a few toys for bad-weather or sick days later on in the year.

From: The National Association for the Education of Young Children

When company comes to visit

Clearly state the house rules concerning visitors to your home and the behavior you expect from your child several times shortly before guests arrive. Be sure he understands the relationship between his actions and the consequences (time-out for inappropriate behavior, for example). Also, verbally rehearse alternative activities he may choose during the day when he gets bored or overexcited. (Make sure he knows his choices before he gets himself into trouble.)

“Whether it’s one visitor or ten coming to our home, Jamie gets extremely excited. When company enters the house, he practically bounces off the walls,” explains Cindy from Brooklyn, New York. “Last Christmas Eve we put him in time-out several times immediately after our guests arrived. Each time he would rejoin the group, he’d lose control again and be sent back to his room. My sister-in-law followed him upstairs the fourth time he went to time-out. She gave him her undivided attention for ten minutes. When he came back downstairs, he was completely under control. Now when we know company is coming, I always ask someone beforehand to spend a few minutes with Jamie when they first arrive. I then tell Jamie, ‘Aunt Sue is looking forward to seeing your rock collection (or whatever) when she arrives.’ This never fails to work for us.”

From The ADHD Parenting Handbook, by Colleen Alexander-Roberts.

Recovering from a childhood in a dysfunctional family

Changing family rituals can be one of the most painful, guilt-inducing risks we can take in our recoveries; but after a very short while, it can be one of the most powerful and healing moves we can make on behalf of ourselves and our famililes. Remember, regardless of your religion, the Holidays have come to mean warmth, love, fellowship, spirituality, recovery and renewal. Hold these principles dear to your heart. Take them seriously. Cherish these values. By doing so you will be showing by your actions and your commitments that you take yourself and your loved ones seriously.

Holiness is a virtue to which we can all aspire. Holiness is damaged by abuse, neglect, stress, hurt feelings, emptiness, anger, emotional dishonesty and fear.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Take the family on a ski trip or a trip to a warm climate for the holidays.
  • Spend two or three hours maximum with the extended family on Christmas Eve (or other celebrations) and leave it at that.
  • Have everyone put their names in a hat, pick names and then each person gets one present from one other person.
  • Get the whole family to work at a homeless shelter or food kitchen on Christmas Day.
  • Spend Christmas Day with the extended family, then go on vacation for the rest of the week, returning New Year’s Day.

From An Adult Child’s Guide to What’s ‘Normal‘, by John Friel, Ph.D., and Linda Friel, M.A.

ADD kids and gifts

Youngsters with ADD have an intense interest in acquiring material possenssions, according to Dr. Melvin D. Levine, a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. Many of these teenagers have difficulty feeling satisfied with their activities or possessions. They constantly want something else or something different. They may be bored with their presents a few days after opening them and want something else to play with or something else to do. On the surface, this behavior appears to reflect a teenager’s lack of appreciation for his parents’ generosity. But it is more likely related to his symptoms of ADD – short attention span, restlessness, and need for new and different stimulation.

From Teenagers With ADD, by Chris Z. Zeigler Dendy, M.S.

Overnight visit

Staying overnight in an unknown hotel can be great fun, or a horrible nightmare. The bed feels different, the room may “smell funny” to you, sounds are different, and it can be hard to sleep. Here are a few ideas to help the mom with ADD:

  • Bring your own pillowcase from home. If you are hypersensitive, as some moms with ADD are, the feel and smell of your pillowcase can really help you relax and get to sleep.
  • If your children have ADD, bring their pillowcases too, as well as a small toy that is familiar. Many preschool children like to bring their favorite blanket.
  • If you can afford it and your children are school-age or adolescents, get adjoining rooms at a hotel. The kids can watch the programs they like and feel very grown-up. You can have some privacy and a chance to wind down. Your children will pop in and out of your room ever five minutes at first, but they’ll usually settle down.
  • Don’t seek the perfect planned vacation or let your spouse rigidly plan every minute. A vacation is a good time to allow yourself some implusive indulgences – to eat in a restaurant you notice from the highway, stop off in a park you didn’t know, or suddenly decide to have a picnic. One year while driving our son to camp, we accidently discovered Helen, Georgia, on the map, an entire town with a Bavarian theme. Intrigued, we drove there and enjoyed a stay of several days.

From Moms With ADD, by Christine Adamec.

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