Thanksgiving, Family Gatherings and Children with ADHD

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • Children with ADHD tend to go into high gear around the holiday season. All around are signs of the upcoming festivities. From school parties to glistening decorations, overstimulation becomes an everyday occurrence. When my son was younger, he would start before Halloween and because his birthday is in January, we didn't end the high energy level until the end of January.


    For parents, this is an exhausting time. Preparations and extra activities and events can be tiring. Being around children that are hyperactive is exhausting. Together, parents feel frazzled most of the time.


    Thanksgiving is the in between time. Children with ADHD are in overdrive and parents are trying to accomplish either making dinner preparations and planning for company or getting ready to visit friends and relatives. The added pressure of wondering if your children will behave at someone else's home or if you, once again, will be embarrassed because of what may happen or what your children will do can send parents into a panic.

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    Being prepared is the key to having a successful, or at least an enjoyable Thanksgiving dinner. Below are five ideas to make sure your children are occupied:


    1)      If you are having relatives for dinner, prepare activities for the children as well. Depending on the ages of the children attending, have coloring books, crayons, (avoid paint and markers unless you want a mess at the end of the day), books, and games. Set up a kid's corner somewhere in your home with "centers" for different activities.

    2)      If you have older children or if older children are attending Thanksgiving dinner, consider paying them to "babysit" during the festivities. Make sure you have different activities to help them keep the younger children busy.

    3)      Involve your children in the preparations. Have them set the table, count out dishes, cups and napkins. Have them create placeholders with each guest's name. Have them create decorations to put around the house to make the house look festive. Purchase small items from a local dollar store or discount store and let the children create small favor bags for each guest.

    4)      Have paper and crayons and have each child draw a picture of what they are thankful for this season. Between dinner and dessert, hang up the pictures to create a wall of "what we are thankful for." (When I was young, the parents held a contest and judged each of the pictures after dinner, and ribbons were placed on the winning pictures, but depending on the ages, you may have younger children crying if he or she does not win the contest). Before sitting down for dessert everyone can go through the art display and remember why we have joined together on this special day.

    5)      If the weather allows (as I am writing this, there is a coating of snow on the ground, but many areas of the country have warmer weather), create outdoor activities to keep the children moving and active and to give them a chance to run off some of the extra energy. Not only that, but having the children outside will allow the adults time to finish preparations and spend time enjoying each other's company.


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    Thanksgiving is a time for us to reflect on what is good in our lives and what we are thankful for. Take the time to share this with your children and find out what they are thankful for. As each person enters your home, have them write down what they are thankful for. Remembering why we are gathering together can help you keep perspective during the day and help you remain focused.


Published On: November 21, 2008