ADHD Kids: 5 Possible Thanksgiving Problems and Suggestions for Solutions

Health Writer

When you have a child with ADHD, Thanksgiving dinners can be a nightmare, especially when you have guests over or are visiting relatives. The following are five potential issues that might come up on Thanksgiving and suggestions on how to solve them.

The long wait

Thanksgiving centers around dinner and that means your children have to wait for the big event all day long. The hours before can seem like they last forever and leave children bored, which in turn can lead to bad behaviors.

When planning for your Thanksgiving festivities, plan children’s activities throughout the day. You might want to set up centers around a basement or family room, for example, a coloring center, a dress up center, a craft center. When children get bored with one activity, they can move on to another. Or, you can contact a few older cousins ahead and offer to pay them to watch the younger children while the adults get dinner ready. Having plenty of interesting activities on hand is key.

Sensory overload

Children with ADHD might be hypersensitive and with all the noise and activity going on, they easily become overloaded.

_Suggestions _

Agree on a spot your child can retreat to when feeling overwhelmed. Have a few books, music or other calming activities in the special area. If you are home, you might keep your child’s room “off-limits” to relatives. If you are visiting relatives, discuss having a bedroom or other area where your child can retreat.

Lack of routine

Children with ADHD thrive in a structured environment. On holidays, the structure often disappears, leaving your child feeling lost or overwhelmed.


Keep to routine as much as possible. Have your child go into “weekend” routine, following his normal Saturday morning schedule. For the rest of the day, write down what to expect, such as what time guests are expected to arrive, what time dinner will be served, what time guests are expected to leave (or what time you plan to leave a relative’s home.) This gives your child a sense of structure for the day. Try to make sure bedtimes remain the same throughout the long weekend.


Inability to constantly supervise

Adults aren’t always as available on Thanksgiving as they are on other days. You are probably busy with dinner preparations and socializing with relatives.


If you are hosting Thanksgiving dinner, try to prepare as much as possible in the days leading up to the holiday. Have guests bring a side dish to lessen what you need to prepare. Enlist the help of older cousins to set the table or take the younger children outside to release some energy. Lean on others to reduce some of your overwhelmed feelings.

Sitting still through dinner

Thanksgiving dinner is often a long process. You might take time to give thanks (some families go around the table allowing each person to state something he or she is thankful for), grace and multiple courses of food. You might sit after the meal and talk. It can be hard for a child with ADHD to sit through a quick meal and absolute torture to sit through a Thanksgiving feast.


Some families choose to feed the children at a separate table or serve them before everyone else sits down to eat. Some prefer everyone sits together. No matter what you choose, keep in mind that all children, not just those with ADHD, might have trouble sitting through an extended meal. Allow them to get up and move around between courses or agree before that once finished eating, the children can get up and leave the table.

See More Helpful Articles:

Managing Thanksgiving Dinner with ADHD

Managing Thanksgiving with Your Family and ADHD

Thanksgiving, Family Gatherings and Children with ADHD

Tips for Traveling During the Holidays with Children with ADHD

Top Ten Tips for De-stressing Your Thanksgiving

Be Thankful for ADHD

Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of Idiot's Guide to Adult ADHD,Idiot's Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy,Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love and Essential Guide to Asperger's Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbaileyand on Facebook at eileenmbailey.

Updated On: October 27, 2016