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Join the club. You sweat the shopping and preparing a huge meal or a dish only to be met with comments about what is missing this year. Gifts elicit a noncommittal response. Before the gathering is over, one of the kids will have a meltdown (maybe it won’t be yours). At the end, you and your family are exhausted and irritable. No one is happy. Let’s not replay these scenes again!

Keep it simple. Your stress, anger and general sense of being harassed will set the tone for how your family experiences the event. A holiday gathering is like a child’s birthday party – it has to have structure! A successful gathering involving children has a set beginning and end. Dinner happens at a certain time. Dessert has a set time. Focus on activities for the young guests. Get out some old -fashioned board games: older children and adults might enjoy a round of “Candyland” with the youngsters!

Children with ADHD or LD benefit from having an assigned job. They could be the “greeter, “the photographer, or in charge of handing out napkins, putting dessert out after dinner or the passing out gifts. Having a role gives them a purpose when interacting with the guests. Let your child know how long the gathering will last, and what to do if they feel “bored.

If you are the guest, decide in advance how long you are staying. Let your child know what they should wear and who else might be there. Come prepared with activities for your children that can be enjoyed with others. If your child is a “picky” eater, bring something that can be shared with other children. When you or another family member is tired – time to leave! Better to go before you feel exhausted; things just go downhill from there. For more hints on successful family experiences go to www.Understood.org.

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 Dr. Mulcahey at mmulcahey@springer-ld.org.

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