Taking Charge of the Holidays

Terry Matlen, ACSW Health Guide
  • I have a love/hate relationship with holidays. Let me explain...


    When I give presentations on ADHD at conferences and workshops, I almost always touch upon the topic of holidays and entertaining because I think it's a huge problem for most families who have ADHD in the mix. To give you some perspective, let me share a bit about how I handle these special occasions.


    One thing I try to keep in mind as each major annual event draws near, whether it's Thanksgiving, Christmas/Chanukah, etc., is to ask myself- or really, REMIND myself- of the reason I'm having a holiday gathering. Is it for spiritual enrichment? Family tradition? Giving in to others' expectations? Having a house large enough that can accommodate everyone?

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    In my case, it's because I want to be with family and to enjoy my time with them. Since my own flavor of ADHD makes it difficult to plan, shop, cook, decorate, remember details, stay calm in a house full of people, not get distracted, etc. etc...I have come up with many strategies to survive:


    1. I graciously, if not deliriously, accept any invitation offered by someone else who is willing to take on a holiday dinner. Sometimes it's hard to believe that there are people who love to do this, but it's true. If someone offers to have it, don't think twice- say yes.


    2. If I do have the dinner at my home, I invite as few people as possible without ending up being on someone's hate list. Suggest to those who are omitted that you get together informally (preferably at a restaurant) after the holidays when you can spend more one-on-one time with them.


    3. Since I'm not exactly an ace in the kitchen, I order in almost all of the food. This typically costs me a car payment, but is well worth it. The food tastes good, but more importantly, it offers me the opportunity to actually enjoy my company, rather than obsessing and worrying over the food. I'm not as stressed out and therefore, less likely to be irritable, lashing out at my family.


    4. For gifts, I order almost everything online, usually at Amazon which carries everything from apple butter to car accessories. They even carry groceries, now, so theoretically, I could start a whole new tradition and have an entire Amazon holiday!


    5. Back to the gifts- I have my kids email me their choices so that I can keep it on file and not accidentally buy duplicates, wrong colors, sizes, etc.


    6. I do a minimum of decorating. It's simply not my forte'. When my kids were younger, they loved making projects to spiff up the house. If you have youngsters at home, ask them to put their creative juices to work.


    7. Can't get out of the cooking and don't have the budget for carry out? Host a holiday potluck. If you hate delegating, ask someone else to keep track of what people are bringing so that there aren't duplicates.


    8. I don't "do" kitchen clean up until everyone is gone. Think about it- you have people falling all over you and distracting you with their chatter. There's the deafening clanking of dishware as it hits the sink. The children are racing around while the adults are fighting about politics and religion. Who needs the extra commotion? Toss everything in the sink and let it soak in hot water. Your job will be a lot easier the next morning and you'll have more energy to do it.


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    9. I make sure that the next two days are blocked out with no responsibilities because that's how long it takes for me to recover from a holiday. If you're an adult with ADHD, like I am, these kinds of festivities are exhausting. Allow yourself a few days to vegetate and recuperate.


    The Big Picture:


    Change your expectations so that the holiday works for YOU, not the other way around. Ask yourself: what do YOU want this day to be like? Visualize it and then come up with solutions so that you can enjoy it- whether it's ordering the food, asking everyone to bring something, hiring a sitter to help with your ADHD kids, etc.


Published On: November 26, 2007