Thanksgiving is a time of family, togetherness, celebration, and food. But Thanksgiving holiday celebrations can be challenging for children and adolescents with ADHD. Changes in routine, overstimulation, boredom, and disruptive behavior are all common to kids with ADHD during big family get-togethers, which can make the holiday very stressful for parents and children. Here are some tips that can make the family get-togethers less stressful for families with ADHD:
1) Don't make your kids sit longer than they are capable of. Its a holiday, but that doesn't mean that kids' ADHD takes a holiday, Many children with ADHD have difficulty sitting in one place for too long, and fidgeting can be disruptive to those around them. Allowing kids with ADHD to get up from the table and take breaks when they need to can make family dinners more enjoyable for everyone.
2) Boredom is the enemy of ADHD. Make a plan with your kids for how to stay entertained through travel, waiting for meals to be prepared, long dinners, or any other parts of the holiday that can be challenging.
3) Kids with ADHD are often easily overwhelmed and overstimulated. Come up with a 'code word' and escape plan if your child needs some time away from the main gathering. Let them play in the backyard, take them for a walk around the block, or even put them in the car and go get something from the store. This can give them a chance to calm down and 'regroup'
4) Let your hosts or guests know if your kid with ADHD is going to need any extra help or accommodations. Accommodations aren't just for school, they can be necessary at home too. It is better if hosts/guests are aware in advance of what your child will need, it is less disruptive if you have to make unanticipated accommodations for your child.
5) Many kids with ADHD struggle with transitions, disruptions to routines, or changes in the schedule. Try to help plan out a schedule with your child in advance, but also make sure that you and your child are prepared if the schedule changes (i.e., have snacks in case dinner comes out late, give your child a 'heads up' if you will be early, etc.)
6) Kids with ADHD may not eat as much if they are distracted, even if it is a food they normally like. If this is common for your kid, make a plate and set it aside so they can eat later if needed.
7) Don't be afraid to parent your child with ADHD the way they need to be parented. Children and adolescents with ADHD often need different parenting approaches then other children. Parents may feel self-conscious about using ADHD-specific parenting techniques, and fanily and friends may be unfamiliar with these techniques.
8) At the same time, it is OK to 'take a break' from more rigid behavior management approaches if it will be more relaxing or fun for you and your child. One day of inconsistency is not going to undo any progress. And it is OK to allow relatives to 'spoil' them a bit even if it is not what you usually would do.
9) Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful, so this is a great time to tell your child how you are thankful for them. ADHD is a challenge but can also be a gift, and it is always a good time to let your child know that you are thankful for them just the way they are!