Expert / 6 December, 2022 / Ellie Thompson
It’s not unusual for parents to dread the Christmas holidays, especially when their kids are ADHD. Overexcited and hyperactive leading up to the day, followed by a massive crash afterwards when it’s all over. Too many members of the family visiting can make the house noisy and overwhelming for ADHD kids, especially those with sensory processing disorder and meltdowns can be the order of the day when it all gets too much.
However, help is at hand from our ADHD expert Sarah Templeton with her top tips for a harmonious home throughout the festive season.
A bored ADHD child is always going to give you more trouble than a busy one. So, make sure you have plans each day for what they can be doing to help you all get ready for Christmas. As much as you can, put them in charge. This will make them feel important and needed and they will see a point in doing each task because it’s their job to make sure it gets done.
Before Christmas, if they enjoy shopping, get them to help you choose presents. They can also help with wrapping presents, making handmade Christmas tree decorations, baking Christmas goodies and helping you decorate the house.
If you have Christmas cards that need hand delivering locally or presents that need dropping off – ask your ADHD child to be in charge of this, obviously with a responsible adult or older brother or sister accompanying them. But put them in charge of arranging the delivery schedule and making sure all the cards and presents are delivered before the day. If we are lucky enough to have snow, wrap them up warm and get them outside. They love nothing more than a snowball fight, building snowmen and going sledging. An ADHD child can entertain themselves for hours outside in the snow.
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If there is a Christmas light switch-on, Christmas markets, an outdoor ice-skating rink, a Christmas film or any other child friendly activities, try and arrange one for each day. An ADHD child hates a day when nothing is happening.
They will want everything straight away – now! So, it’s a good idea to hide a few away which you suddenly ‘find’ much later on in the afternoon when their stimulation is flagging.
“There’s another few presents for you here” is music to an ADHD child’s brain. And, if you have family coming to visit on Boxing Day or afterwards, ask them to bring any presents with them then. Family arriving with new presents will give your ADHD child an adrenaline boost and add excitement to that day.
No doubt there will have been chocolate in their stocking and chocolate in their presents. Remember their dopamine-seeking brain will be having a party at the thought of eating all of this at once and the consequence, i.e., feeling sick afterwards, won’t have entered their head.
So, it’s a good idea to ask them what they want to eat in the morning “still leaving enough room for your enormous Christmas lunch” and then, what they want to save for the afternoon and for the evening. Allow them to choose what they’re going to have, and then swiftly hide the rest in their special safe place. Don’t make the mistake of putting their chocolate in the general family cupboard or drawer. They will want their chocolate saved just for them. But as long as it is somewhere safe and only they are going to be eating it, you should be able to prize it from them and allow them to have just enough to keep them happy but not feeling nauseous.
They aren’t going to want to sit and chat with the family so instead allow them to eat their dinner and then run off to play with their new games and toys. Insisting an ADHD child sit at the table until everybody else has finished is just going to be very boring for them and their whingeing and constant “Can I get down now” is going to ruin the rest of the meal for everyone else. And, if they don’t want to wear a paper crown don’t force them. I hated these as a child which I now believe is due to my sensory processing disorder. Don’t force them if they really don’t want to wear one.
Have a good selection of batteries for gadgets or devices that arrive without any.
The crippling disappointment of not being able to play with a new toy or gadget because there are no batteries can be real misery for an ADHD child whose brain has just become very excited and then immediately deflated.
Make sure you’ve stocked up on plenty of new art and craft materials, felt tips and paper for days when they just want some downtime.
Sitting at the table colouring can keep them occupied for hours so make sure you have lots of new materials.
Especially if your child has sensory processing disorder which most ADHD people do.
If they don’t already own them, some noise-cancelling headphones are a very good Christmas present and handy when things get too loud and overwhelming in the house.
Sarah Templeton is an ADHD counsellor, coach, CBT therapist and author of How Not to Murder Your ADHD Kid: Instead Learn How to Be Your Child’s Own ADHD Coach, available on Amazon, priced £19.99
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