By Maria Romaszkan
Christmas and winter break bring about a drastic change of routine — no school, holiday preparations, traveling, visiting and hosting guests. The outside world poses challenges as well, with crowds on the streets hurrying through gift shopping, Christmas pop songs booming in every shop, and an onslaught of lights and even fireworks. Unsurprisingly, your child with ADHD can be overwhelmed, tired and stressed. What can you do to make this time as comfortable for them as possible?
Talk to your child about what to expect
Discuss what is going to happen during the break. There will be no school, and maybe you’ll travel or invite guests. The streets are going to be louder and busier.
Explain that the plans may always change even when they’re really looking forward to them. This way, your child can prepare themselves in advance for a sudden development or feeling disappointed.
Create a routine
Try to establish a routine for the winter break. You can, for example, eat meals at around the same time every day. Predictability and knowing what to expect will help your child feel safer and calmer.
Create a schedule with all the holiday tasks to better manage your time and plan your child’s day. Invite them to help you with chores. Cooking together, for example, can be a great way to have fun and learn something new.
Still, make sure your child has some alone time every day to quiet down and unwind. They may need it, especially when you have guests or attend events that can overstimulate them.
You can agree on a signal if they need some time to themselves or your help when you have guests. Such a signal is a great idea if your child may be otherwise hesitant to reach out for fear of attracting attention.
Find coping mechanisms
Make sure your child has healthy coping mechanisms that are easily accessible, even when you’re traveling or hosting people at your home.
Your child might feel embarrassed to use grounding techniques with others around. Assure them there’s nothing wrong with needing this kind of support. You can even learn techniques like breathing exercises together as a family to normalize it.
To make your child even more comfortable, you can explain the situation to your guests and other family members and ask them to refrain from making comments.
Plan fun activities you can do together as a family, from arts and crafts to a scavenger hunt. But — as we’ve mentioned — give your child plenty of time to spend alone as well. They can always seek you out if they want to spend more time together.
Even creating a list of what games you may all play can be an enjoyable activity. Make it a family discussion and involve your child in decision-making.
Consider planning some day trips out of the city. While kids love places like a zoo, they tend to be crowded and may be overwhelming for your child. On the other hand, a walk in the forest or a skiing trip allows your child to spend plenty of time outside and get rid of all that energy.
Establish boundaries for children and other relatives
Your child’s boundaries are vital for their well-being. Don’t pressure them into hugging or giving kisses to their relatives. Explain that they can decline a hug from their grandpa or aunt, even if they may look sad or don’t understand why. Encourage them to clearly say no and propose an alternative, like giving a high five.
Set some rules for guests as well. Explain what your child’s boundaries are and how to respect those boundaries. Alert guests about possible meltdowns from your child — why they may happen and how they should react.
Take care of yourself as well
Don’t forget to care for yourself too. Just as your child needs time to decompress, so do you. Make sure to give yourself some breathing room to read, nap or watch a movie. If possible, fit in some light exercise too — like yoga or an energetic walk.
Try not to put too much pressure on yourself. To make the preparations easier and have more time with your family, try to make a plan in advance, delegate tasks, or once in awhile order take-out food. Christmas doesn’t need to be perfect. What’s most important is that you’re safe and surrounded by people you love.