You’ve survived the holiday parties, the shopping, decorating your home and the pre-holiday excitement. You are exhausted but you’ve finally arrived at Christmas morning. Your child with ADHD is a bundle of excitement. Being "up at dawn" is an understatement, your child has been up since 5:00 A.M.(or earlier), jumping up and down, ready to open gifts and begin the festivities of the day. One more day and you can finally get back to routines. Life can get back to normal (if there is such a thing.)
Here are some tips for making it through Christmas Day with you ADHD child:
Move gifts from underneath the tree for unwrapping. In the excitement of opening gifts, trees can get toppled, gifts broken or lost. Move gifts to an open area where your children can open gifts without worrying about knocking down ornaments or the whole tree.
Make sure everyone knows what to expect when opening gifts. Some families have each child take turns, opening one gift at a time. Other let their children rip open all the gifts and then go back to look at them. No matter what your tradition, make sure your children know ahead of time how it is going to work. If you give out gifts to each person, consider letting your child with ADHD the job of handing out the gifts to keep him occupied while others are opening the presents.
Remember medication. If your child regularly takes medication, don’t skip this day as a "holiday." He (or she) is used to the medication and staying on it will help keep him level throughout the day.
Plan a good breakfast. Having a good, healthy breakfast keeps everyone on a more even keel. Being hungry increases hyperactivity, acting out and meltdowns. Once the gifts are open, allow your children a little while to play with one toy before sitting down to a healthy breakfast.
Take breaks throughout the day. Providing some down time throughout the day helps everyone stay calm and enjoy the day. Give your children some time to play with toys and then have them choose a "quiet" toy or book and sit quietly for 15 minutes.
Have healthy snacks. Holiday snacks are often cookies, candies and other delicious junk food and children with ADHD frequently overindulge . Make sure you have some healthy foods for your children to nibble on through the day. Instead of putting out a plate of cookies, make up a tray of veggies that are easy to eat.
Keep your day simple. The simpler, the better. Allow for plenty of family time but give your time to enjoy the day. If you have certain family traditions, make sure they are ADHD friendly. Foregoing some traditions may be a better alternative than dealing with the chaos and frustration of making sure everything is done just right. Create new family traditions that are more geared toward your family dynamics.
If heading out to relatives, allow your child to bring one favorite gift - but make sure it isn’t too loud or can’t be easily broken. Help your child choose a gift that will allow him to be occupied without causing too much ruckus.
As always, focus on the positive. Although the holidays can be a trying time for children with ADHD and their parents, remember, the holidays are a celebration of family. With some advance planning, your Christmas Day can be filled with joy and love.