5 Ways to Help Your Child with ADHD Thrive During the Holidays

By Lindsay Guentzel

The holiday season brings joy and celebration, but for a child with ADHD, the change in routine and the sensory overload can be overwhelming. As a parent, understanding and proactively managing your child’s needs during this time is crucial. By fostering open communication, creating a predictable routine, and understanding your child’s unique needs, you can navigate the holiday season with greater ease.

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Here are five valuable tips to make the upcoming holiday break as comfortable as possible for your child.

Create a special calendar for your family’s winter break.

Children with ADHD thrive with routine, which means the sudden disruption over winter break – even with all its fun and excitement – can bring unnecessary stress for the whole family. Communicating with your child about what they can expect is a simple way to help alleviate any confusion, and creating a special calendar that includes your family’s activities and schedule for this disruption gives them a visual anchor to go back to. 

Set aside time every day for alone time. 

It’s important for all of us to balance socializing and rest over the long holiday break, especially for kids with ADHD who can easily become overstimulated but struggle to communicate their needs. Alone time helps build independence, reduce anxiety and fosters creativity and self-expression. It allows them to decompress, reducing the likelihood of sensory overload or emotional dysregulation.

Struggling to get kids on board with alone time? Set a time goal for each day, utilize a timer, and check off your kid’s accomplishments on a chart! 

  • Tech-Free Alone Time Ideas: Journaling, Drawing, Reading, Puzzles, Playdough, Kinetic Sand, Building Blocks

Give your child the OK to say when they need a break. 

It’s easy for anyone to get overstimulated during the holidays. As adults, we know when we need to take a break. Maybe it’s a quick walk after a loud meal or ducking into a quiet room to run through a ten-minute breathing exercise. 

Kids, on the other hand, need to be empowered to identify the signs of overstimulation and feel comfortable asking for a break, even in the midst of all the family fun. Give them a signal or a code to use that indicates they are in need of some alone time. Have them be involved in picking out your special cue so it’s something they feel comfortable using when surrounded by friends and family. 

Set aside time for family activities that foster fun and connection. 

Spending time together as a family has a long list of benefits for kids with ADHD, including strengthening emotional bonds, building self-confidence, enhancing communication and social skills and providing positive reinforcement. It’s also another way to establish structure and routine during the chaos of the long winter break. 

Have your child play a role in planning your activities as a family, making sure to pencil in ample alone time for everyone – this includes you, too. Recharging is crucial, it gives our brains the opportunity to rebalance itself after the dopamine rush!

Make getting outdoors every day a priority for the whole family. 

Despite the fact that getting outdoors offers a range of physical, mental, and emotional benefits, it can be hard to make it a priority during the winter months. We get it, it’s cold! But even just a quick walk outdoors can be beneficial, offering your child with ADHD a way to expand some of their energy in a quiet environment.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign looked at the potential benefits of outdoor activities for kids with ADHD, finding a connection between time spent in nature and a reduction in ADHD symptoms. And the good news is, the perks of green time were apparent even if the kids were visiting the same park over and over again. Which means even 20 minutes in your backyard every single day has its perks! 

  • Plan a family day trip: Bundle up and explore a state or national park near you, hit up the ski hills, build an outdoor scavenger hunt to challenge your family to get outdoors every day.

Additional Resources:

How To Organize Winter Break for Children with ADHD

Spend Time Outside to Improve ADHD Symptoms

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