Every year, much is written about how to prevent holiday stress. When you have a child with ADHD/LD, it is important to recognize and accept that the time from mid-November through January 1st will be a significant challenge for your child. Having the weekday schedule disrupted, even by happy occasions, upsets the normal rhythm of the day.

It is difficult for many children to cope when the day does not follow the predictable, stable routine. There is excitement at school with special assemblies or grandparents’ day. At home there may be visitors, parents’ work schedules change, children miss their usual peers, they get to bed late and get up late, meals are not at the usual times. The result is tired, cranky children who are struggling to cope with change and to manage their emotional reactions to unpredictable situations. You are not a bad parent if your child has tantrums, refuses to cooperate or doesn’t “go with the flow.” Accept that all of these reactions might happen, unlike what we see in holiday programs on TV or in movies.

Coping Tips:

  • Take care of yourself first. Get enough sleep, and put away the “Wonder Woman” or “Superman” cape that you are trying to earn.
  • Post a schedule at home. It may be different for each day, but everyone will see the general sequence of events. List what needs to be done that day, such as dinner at a relative’s house or errands. Include time for playing together and being alone; family members cope better when there are choices.
  • Children remember experiences. Treats will by happily eaten whether you knocked yourself out making them or bought them! 
  • When visiting, bring a bag with treats and activities to entertain your children. Tell them how long you will be visiting, and stick to that schedule no matter how great everything is going. 

Remember, less is fine! Happy Holiday!

Blogger Mary Ann Mulcahey, PhD, shares her expertise in assessment and diagnosis of learning disabilities and ADHD, and the social/emotional adjustment to those issues. If you have questions, please contact Mary Ann at mmulcahey@springer-ld.org.

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