Reduce Holiday Overwhelm–Simplify!

Despite our best intentions, it seems like most families are frequently more stressed by the holiday season that they would like. Between our regular responsibilities of work, parenting and other life tasks, we now add shopping for gifts, planning family celebrations, attending holiday parties and cooking special foods. Perhaps you work all day, make dinner, put the kids to bed and then shop online or cook until midnight. Or maybe you rush out to shop during lunch, hurriedly eat a sandwich at your desk and then wrap gifts in the bathroom after the kids are asleep. Sound familiar?
Everyone is excited about the holidays and there is much to enjoy.
Yet, sometimes you may feel like things are rushed and out of control. Parents often feel so pressured during this season. ADHD kids, with their knack for picking up when things are frantic and responding to that energy, really benefit from slowing things down. When too much stimulation comes at them, they just don’t have the ability to process what’s happening effectively. They become easily overwhelmed and, depending on their personalities, act out their feelings in ways that, unfortunately, can be inappropriate. You, too, may be reacting to all of the things you have to do in ways that aren’t your best self. How can you approach this holiday season so that everyone is calmer?
Slowing down is the first, most important step. Many families just take on too much during this time of year. Perhaps you have some organizational or planning challenges yourself that add to feeling overwhelmed. Of course, exercise, yoga or meditation are generally helpful but you probably need more than that right now. Here are specific ways that you and your ADHD sons and daughters can manage the holidays with less stress and more calm:

  1. Take a minute to think about your to-do list. It may very well seem too long and impossible to accomplish in the time you have. Go through the list and mark the things that are most important to you. Since this can be hard to do, talk with your partner or a friend to assist you in prioritizing and eliminating. Removing, consolidating or getting help is the first step in creating balance.
  2. Ask your kids to reflect on their gift list. Maybe they can pick a few bigger gifts or activities instead of several smaller ones. This would make things a lot easier for you and possibly better for them. You can help your ADHD child or teen with this and model how to simplify.
  3. Ask your children to assist you in activities they like–cooking, shopping and wrapping. This will also reduce your burden and encourage their participation. Most ADHD kids like to do things. Why not have them work with you on holiday projects? Even if it takes management, you are connecting with them, teaching all kinds of skills and involving them in the process. It’s a win-win.
  4. Talk with your family about the holiday plans. While it may be challenging for ADHD kids to plan ahead, they certainly have opinions about what they like to do. When some of their preferences are part of the picture, you increase the likelihood for their cooperative participation.
  5. Set reasonable expectations for togetherness. Remember that ADHD kids especially need down time to regroup mentally and emotionally. Make sure there is time each day for this. It doesn’t matter if they are reading, watching tv, playing a computer game, drawing, playing with Lego or listening to music–they need time with reduced input that they choose. This time helps their
    system de-activate. You, too, would probably benefit from some time like this.

It sounds corny but less is actually more in these weeks. Take some time to do less and you and ADHD kids will reap the benefits!
Happy holidays to you and your family!