Kids and Teenagers With ADHD and the Christmas Holidays. Jingle Bells or Jingle Hell?

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I found an interesting article on Health Central about Teenagers finding the change in routine very stressful around the Christmas  holiday time.

Here are some tips to help you get through the holiday period when you have a teenager with ADHD:

Plan out their holiday homework. Once your child reaches secondary school, teachers often assign a report, project or homework to be completed over the holiday break. Find out what school work your teenager has been given and help them plan a schedule for getting it completed. With the festivities and extra activities, your teenager may keep putting it off – leaving all the work until the day before the break ends. Sit down and plan a schedule so they are doing a small amount at a time and there isn’t any end of holiday break rush to complete all the work.

Talk about expectations. Teenagers often feel let-down around the holidays. As your children mature, they may feel the magic of Christmas has disappeared and they are left with feelings of disappointment. Teens with ADHD are often more immature than their peers and may have trouble managing  their emotions. Talk to your teenager about their expectations for the holiday and help them understand how although Christmas changes as they get older, there is still plenty to celebrate and enjoy. Get them focusing on the things they enjoy and teach them to have what I call an “Attitude of Gratitude” recognising all the things they have to be thankful for.

Look for signs of depression. The “winter blues” frequently hit about this time of year. The cold weather, the dark early nights can contribute to feelings of depression. Teens with ADHD have a higher risk of the blues and of depression. If you see signs, such as lethargy, avoiding friends and family and not wanting to participate in family celebrations, consider talking to your child’s doctor about depression and seek some help if you are worried.

Keep your teen’s daily routine. During the festive season, with extra activities or trips to relatives’ homes, your teenager’s schedule may be completely different. Just as younger children need routine and structure, teens do too. Make sure your teenager is getting enough sleep, eating correctly and sticking to the daily routine as much as possible – as it will give them confidence,  a sense of well being and structure.

Consider your teen’s request to miss some family gatherings. Teenagers are very keen to spend time with their friends or even alone so respect their independence and let them stay home rather than going to endless family gatherings that can be a bit boring for them !

Include your teenager in the planning. Are you hosting the Christmas dinner this year? Then ask your teen for help in preparing the menu or setting up for the party, or in  being in charge of videoing the festivities. They will be making memories that will last a lifetime.  Keeping your teenager involved in the preparations helps them feel a valued member of the family and that you respect their ideas as well as their  opinion – it keeps the bridges of communication open.

Focus on the positive. Sooooo many people I hear in shops to pubs complain about how stressful it is buying the presents, cooking the Turkey and visiting their relatives but you always have a choice in your attitude to anything in life so why not focus on the positive?

 You may be feeling overwhelmed so your stress levels may be quite high, which will make you impatient and short tempered with your teenager so deliberately find some “ME TIME” where you chill out and relax – go and read the paper for half an hour, relax in a scented bath or go for a walk or a run. It will relieve tension and help you feel more in control so you’ll have more patience with your ADHD teenager.  Choose to deliberately focus on the positive and let your teen know how much you appreciate this extra time you can spend together.

Christmas is a time for fun, laughter and being together and with a little bit of planning and stepping back from the mad rush you can have a great time !

And for younger children

Structured Routine:

Stick to a predictable schedule to provide a sense of stability for your child with ADHD

Clear Expectations

Communicate expectations & potential changes in advance, reducing uncertainty anxiety

Sensory-Friendly Activities

Opt for activities that cater to sensory needs, such as quiet spaces or activities with tactile elements.

Visual Aids

Use visual schedules to help your child understand the holiday plans & transitions.

Limit Stimuli

Reduce overwhelming stimuli by selecting quieter celebrations or providing noise-canceling headphones if needed.

Breaks & Downtime:

Allow breaks for your child to recharge during busy festivities, ensuring they have some downtime.

Prepare for Changes:

Prepare your child for any changes in routine, helping them adapt more smoothly to new situations.

Engage in Predictable Traditions

Maintain familiar holiday traditions that your child enjoys, offering a sense of comfort.

Set Realistic Expectations

Understand & accept that not every moment needs to be perfect; flexibility is key during the holidays.

Communication with Others

Share strategies with family & friends, helping them understand & support your child’s needs during gatherings.

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