guest blog by Karen Sampson Hoffman, MA
The run-up to the holidays is in full force, offering everything from excitement to frenzy. For anyone affected by ADHD, it's often a time of both excitement and frenzy. No doubt about it, the holidays require additional thought and planning — and a healthy dose of humor.
Each of us has an image of the perfect holiday in our minds. Many of us create undue stress in our lives by trying to achieve this image. We end up missing out on the joy of the season. Instead, with a pad of paper, calendar and a realistic set of goals, we can plan and enjoy the holidays by following the advice of one CHADD member who wrote to us: “Change the expectations so the holiday works for you, not the other way around.”
So we dug into our archives in search of more gems like that. We found many ideas to make this holiday season flow more smoothly and become a pleasant experience in your home.
The amount of stimulation brought by holiday events — especially those that include crowds and seldom-seen family members — can easily become too much for adults and children affected by ADHD. Parents and relatives can help children with ADHD by understanding that the frenzy of the holiday season affects their kids’ daily lives and by showing empathy. Adults can be equally kind to themselves or their spouses and partners by allowing them time to regroup, setting up quiet rooms, or facilitating graceful exits from parties.
Think ahead to social situations that might be difficult. Plan a variety of cooling-off activities that can help you or your loved one gain control during stressful times and help make holiday events enjoyable for everyone.
For Young Children• Turn on holiday music and encourage children to dance to get their “wiggles” out.
• Provide a special treat that your child needs to sit down to enjoy.
• Roll up your little one’s sleeves and let him splash in a sink with a bar of floating soap or bath toys.
• Use a special CD or book for the holiday season as a distraction when behavior starts to escalate.
For Older Kids• Make busy-time packets with stickers, coloring books, writing paper, crayons, pens and stickers.
• Let children pack sack lunches and find different spots in the house or the neighborhood to have lunch.
• Try art: Bring out the crayons, markers, and colored pencils, and let your child color in a special coloring book or use butcher paper to make a mural. Other possibilities include using modeling clay, gluing cotton balls together or on paper, or making chalk drawings on the sidewalk.
• Record a favorite family TV show or find a special movie to play when quiet time is needed.
• Plan how long you would like to remain at an event.
• Offer to help out in areas that are more suited to your abilities, whether it’s the excitement of watching the kids or the calm of helping to do dishes.
• Talk with the host or hostess ahead of time, and ask if there is a room available if you need a little bit of time away from the hubbub.
• Be willing to politely intervene when you see your companion becoming stressed in the situation. You may realize it before he or she does.
Be sure to make your travel arrangements ahead of time so you can take advantage of lower fares for advanced booking. Consider what is the best time of day for you or your family members to travel. Traveling with ADHD takes some planning beyond air flights and hotels.
• Consider your daily needs and how they can be met while you’re on the road. How much do you rely on your smartphone or daily planner? What about computers and email? Do you use medication to control your ADHD symptoms? Do you crave a particular morning coffee or evening snack? Take account of all of these things and plan in advance, packing anything necessary for your day to run smoothly.
• Check with your airline, hotel or travel agent to see if they can assist in meeting your needs. Ask for aisle seats if you know you’ll need to stand or walk a short distance for comfort. If you're carrying medication for ADHD or other health concerns, check ahead of time for the proper way to pack them. Make sure you have any necessary documentation or prescriptions with you, and always pack your medication in your carry-on bag. If you're traveling internationally, find out the proper way to carry your medications between countries.
• When packing your carry-on bag, keep in mind your level of tolerance for inactivity. Bring appropriate diversions, including books, laptops, tablets, and so forth.
For Your Partner
If you're traveling with someone with ADHD, you might need to be proactive in making your travel arrangements and packing. Many of the previous suggestions can apply, but also step back and offer guidance rather than doing it for your companion. Casual reminders rather than demands often go further in creating a pleasant experience. Plan ahead if you think a particular task or item will be missed and help to avoid problems.
For Your Children
Forethought goes into just about everything when you travel with children with ADHD, whether you're their parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or guardian.
• Just as you need to check on medication concerns for yourself, you need to do the same for children in your care, along with any necessary documentation of their disabilities. Talk with the agent booking your travel, and ask about special accommodations or recommendations to make the trip more pleasant for all involved.
• Always make sure medications are carried in their original containers and that you bring your medical insurance cards and documentation or consent forms. If necessary, ask your child's doctor for suggestions about medication during the holidays.
• When packing carry-on bags, make sure you have activities for the kids. Coloring and activity books are great for all ages; older children and teens may need a variety of books or magazines. Tablets, iPods or MP3 players, or small game systems can be useful, too. The idea is to keep children occupied, especially when their attention can shift quickly.
Karen Sampson Hoffman, MA, is the coordinator of the NRC's Ask the Expert series. She writes from St. Denis, Maryland.
Another version of this post appeared in Attention magazine. Join CHADD and receive every issue!