As the holidays descend upon us, it’s time to sit down and consider how you would like the holidays to with your family. We are seduced by the Hollywood ideal of stuffed stockings hanging above a glowing fire while people joyfully drink their hot cocoa. But, is this what really happens for anyone?
When you live in a family with ADHD, the holidays can be especially complicated. Parties, sugary treats and unstructured time can combine into overwhelm, meltdowns and unpleasant conflict. How can you avoid these testy times and create a positive experience for your family?
Instead of being surprised when an eruption occurs, a little forethought can go a long way. With some preparation and some accurate predictions, you can create a plan that maximizes fun and minimizes stress. Follow these steps:
- Name the triggers: Consider what sets you and your kids off during this time of year? Write these down. At a quiet moment, perhaps before bed or in the car, ask your children for their opinions. Try starting with: “What are two things you are looking forward to over the holidays and two things you’re not that excited about?” Make note of their answers.
- Look for overlaps: See what, if any, situations, interactions or activities people find stressful. You want to focus on reducing the intensity of these events or, if possible, eliminating them.
- Call a family meeting: Set aside fifteen minutes and call this meeting the NO-STRESS (your family name) HOLIDAY GUIDE. Share the similarities in everybody’s responses. Brainstorm alternative options and create reasonable BACK-UP Plans for when things are crashing. Agree on clear signals or statements for when a person wants or needs to take a break, leave the situation and benefits from adult input.
- Expect to remind everyone about your agreement: Before you embark on those tricky situations, review the BACK-UP Plans and remind them about the signals.
- Create your own strategy: Remember to have a strategy for yourself when you’re nearing the end of your rope. Make a knot and hold on. Breathe in for a count of four, hold it for four and breathe out for four. Go outside for a breath of fresh air or visit the bathroom to splash some water on your face.
- Have fun! You’ve got this!