Sanity during holidays

1. Avoid holiday overwhelm: Your brain can only process so much info at one time and it’s especially hard for kids with or without ADHD to manage themselves around this time. In fact, it’s often tough for adults who have their own triggers and family issues to deal with. How can families cope effectively?
a. Make lists: There is no other way to be organized. Write things down, preferably on your phone or tablet so you won’t lose it. Show your children how to do this. Then, check things off to create a sense of accomplishment and goal persistence.
b. Post a holiday schedule: When kids with ADHD can visually see the details about upcoming events, it helps them plan mentally and prepare for the situation. This makes transitions easier, along with several warnings before something is set to occur.
c. Be flexible: Things don’t always work out the way we plan them. Disappointment can be rough for anyone to tolerate and kids are still learning how to strengthen this muscle. Acknowledge their feelings knowing that you may or may not be able to fix it for them and that’s okay.
d. Build in recovery time. It takes time for our brains process all of the heightened activity and emotions during the holiday, especially for kids with ADHD. Plan for ‘down time’, whether that’s time alone, watching a movie on the couch together or making some popcorn to eat in front of the fire.×680.jpg
Kids with ADHD usually have grown up with a series of negative comments about that are labeled “constructive feedback.” Actually these statements feel anything but constructive. One 10 year-old boy told me “There’s nothing good about feedback. It’s usually bad.” Even parental or teacher redirections are interpreted by kids and their concrete thinking as them being wrong, bad or improper. Avoidance and perfectionism can then emerge as coping mechanisms.
Children and especially teens with ADHD can be expert avoiders. Tired of feeling wrong or doing poorly in school more often than not, they just give up. Perfectionism in kids with ADHD usually comes from feeling like they are never good enough. It can stop them from starting anything, especially writing, before they even begin. Sometimes they will agonize for hours which will delay them even more.×711.jpg

How can we keep your sons and daughters engaged and willing to attempt things? Here are some helpful hints:

  • Acknowledge past mistakes as something that happened but aren’t who they are. Since learning means messing up, regrouping and doing things anyway, investigate the details of what occurred with the original mistake.
  • Ask questions with no blame and a neutral tone of voice like you are a detective: “What happens when you sit down for a test in biology? I saw you study at home. . . What might have helped you before the test that you now know based on your experience?”
  • Break tasks down into smaller, more manageable parts. When something seems overwhelming, difficult or uninteresting, start small. Together, choose some fun activities that can be used as incentives. “Instead of creating all 5 paragraphs of your book report, let’s just work on the first one. Then we can play a game of cards and do the second.” Your assistance and even sometimes just your presence, can be the difference between doing nothing and starting something.
  • Be open about the mistakes you make. Talk about them and what you did to deal with your errors. By doing this, you not only model your own flaws and problem-solving skills but also the shared human experience of having foibles in the first place.
  • Practice self-forgiveness and accountability. Let your kids see how you do this and verbalize it for them as well. Watching you shows that they can do it too.×683.jpgAddressing these challenges takes time. Be patient with yourself and your ADHD child or teen. If you notice that you are frustrated, take some space, regroup and try again later when you are calmer.
Remember, any negativity from you about avoidance and perfectionism only makes these tendencies stronger.×680.jpg