How To Organize Family Holidays When You Have ADHD

By Maria Romaszkan

Organizing family holidays can be overwhelming for anyone, especially when you have ADHD. It’s everything people with ADHD often struggle with: time management, planning and prioritizing, forgetfulness, perfectionism and impulsive spending.

How can you make organizing the family gathering less stressful and enjoy your Christmas or other holidays?

Make a plan well in advance

First of all, together with your family, make a plan before the holidays, so you have plenty of time to get everything ready. Make sure everyone has their responsibilities. Break down the tasks into smaller steps and assign deadlines, so the process is less overwhelming.

Discuss travel arrangements with your guests as soon as possible to better manage your time, especially in the last moments before the holidays. Ask when they will arrive and if they need to be picked up at the airport or train or bus station.

Consider using a whiteboard or a calendar so you can track everything.

Be realistic about what you can do

Organizing a holiday family gathering can feel like you must go all out and be a perfect host, but don’t let the pressure overshadow what’s most important. It’s the time to rest and be with your loved ones, not run yourself into the ground, trying to push your limits.

Don’t hesitate to ask for help, like asking an aunt to bake her legendary cheesecake, or forgo some traditions to lessen the load, like sending holiday cards.

Make holiday shopping ADHD-friendly

Online and store shopping

Consider ordering at least a part of your grocery shopping online. While you may want to pick fresh produce yourself, it’s safe to order cleaning products, cosmetics, drinks or canned food.

If you want to shop in person, go early or late to avoid wild crowds. To make it less stressful, visit a store you’re familiar with or go with someone else, so you can go through the shopping list faster — and lower the risk of impulsive spending.

Shopping lists

Split them into categories or, even better, into several phases. You won’t get your grocery shopping done in one trip. You’ll need to buy some things in advance, while others — like perishable items — just before the holidays.

Keep track

Again, consider a whiteboard or a paper pad you can place in the kitchen to track the progress and modify the list as soon as possible before you forget or get distracted. You might also consider an online document or app you can share with your family.

Simplify meal preparation

Create a menu for each day and a list of food that will be eaten through the holidays, like desserts and condiments.

It might be tempting to plan over-ambitious, lavish dinners that will wow your guests. But keep it simple. You don’t need even more stress.

Order some dishes

Consider ordering some dishes, like cakes or meats, from local businesses. Or schedule a take-out night. The kids will probably love it.

Easy food prep

There are many easy but delicious things you can prepare in advance. Marinate fish or meat and just pop it into the oven later. Prepare stuffings, sauces or desserts earlier and freeze or refrigerate them. On the last day, you can make a meal out of leftovers. That will also mean you don’t waste food!

Create ground rules for guests

Remember that being accommodating as a host doesn’t mean not respecting your boundaries. Create some rules, especially if you have a complicated family situation. For example, some guests can come over for coffee or lunch but not stay overnight.

Discuss with others such issues as noise, touching (for example, hugging is okay, but not kisses), or your need to have some quiet time every day.

If alcohol or junk food makes your ADHD worse, you can also ask people not to bring those items when they visit.

Take care of yourself

It’s easy to burn out when you’re the one organizing holiday gatherings. Especially if you have ADHD, planning, time management and the overall pressure can be overwhelming. Schedule some quiet time to unwind. Or exercise to release some tension.

Respect your limits and boundaries so you can rest and enjoy the holidays too.

Resources:

Additude Mag: The Goof-proof Guide to Holiday Entertaining

CHADD: Holiday Meal Planning? You Can Do That

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Live support will be unavailable while we’re closed but you can always submit a request or leave a voice message. We’ll get back to you when we return on Tuesday, June 20th.

Each of our clinicians sets their own holiday hours. Check with your doctor for availability.

Looking to take our Assessment? That’s available all day, every day, whenever and wherever is best for you!