15 Holiday Survival Tips for Parents of Kids with Attention Issues
The holidays can be a magical time, but many parents are gearing up for the stress and anxiety that comes with prepping for holiday celebrations! The hustle and bustle of the season can seem especially overwhelming for kids struggling with ADHD and other attention issues. Don’t miss our list of tips and ideas for surviving and enjoying the holidays this year!
Stick To Your Routine - School breaks, vacations, extra shopping trips, and holiday get-togethers can all take their toll on your everyday schedule. While it may seem tempting to go with the flow and ease up on your normal routine, disruptions can be a big challenge for both you and your child. Stick to your schedule as much as you can, especially when it comes to your child’s medication, therapies, treatments, and sleep schedule.
Be Choosy - It can be tempting to say yes to every fun event, holiday party, and family gathering over the holidays, but give yourself permission to say no. Your life will be easier to manage if you feel in control of your schedule, so focus on the events that really matter and avoid over-scheduling your time.
Talk Through What to Expect - Take the time to talk through what you’re doing, where you’re going, who you’ll be seeing, etc. so your child doesn’t feel overwhelmed or anxious. When you prepare your child for things that are new or different, you’ll both feel more control over the situation!
Have a Backup Plan - Pack a Just-In-Case kit stocked with snacks, water, games, pajamas, books, and more that will see you through those worst-case scenarios. From an extended layover at the airport to a meltdown on the way home, you’ll be glad you have a backup to fall back on!
Go Over the Rules - Whether you’re hosting family and friends at your house, or you’re visiting someone else’s home, go over the rules often with your child so they’re always fresh in his or her mind. From reminders on the kinds of behaviors that are appropriate (and which ones will result in bad consequences), it’s important to remind and reinforce expectations often!
Enforce Boundaries - Hugs from distant cousins and kisses from great aunts you see once a year are awkward hallmarks of the holidays. Kids that struggle in social situations can be even more uncomfortable when confronted with these interactions. As the parent, it’s totally within your right to establish boundaries with these kinds of interactions and let your child know about these boundaries. From forced conversations to goodbye hugs, let your child know what you expect, then support him or her when it comes time to enforce those boundaries.
Establish a Secret Code - Create a non-verbal gesture or secret password for your child to use when he or she is feeling overwhelmed or needs a break. With three quick squeezes of the hand, or a simple “abracadabra,” you’ll know what your child needs, and they’ll have an easy way to get your attention without throwing a tantrum or acting out.
Offer Alternatives - We’ve all been at a party we wish we could just disappear from, right? Let your child know what their alternatives are before they start acting out. From a quiet room to a walk around the block, going over choices for when your child gets over excited, anxious, or bored can help you avoid trouble before it starts!
Plan Ahead When Traveling - Flying to grandma’s? Choose an aisle seat so your child can easily take a stroll when it’s safe. Going on a road trip? Pack plenty of activities and games so that you can switch things up when your child starts to get bored. Better yet, plan the route together and choose some easy, entertaining stops along the way to get out and move. Getting everything packed that you’ll need after you get to your destination can be overwhelming, but don’t forget about packing for the actual trip, too!
Give Your Child a Job - Depending on his or her age, your child could be in charge of keeping the veggie tray stocked, entertaining younger cousins, or hanging guests’ coats up when they arrive. Let them have a say in their assigned task, and, of course, let them know they can take a break when needed. Overall, let them feel like they’re part of the fun!
Travel With the Comforts of Home - When you’ve got an overnight trip on the calendar, don’t forget to bring some of the comforts of home with you. Beyond a favorite stuffed animal or book, think about favorite pillows (or just the pillowcase), blankets, noise machines, etc. Making hotels or other people’s houses smell, sound, and feel more like home can help you avoid some long, sleepless nights!
Get Smart with your Schedule - Do you enjoy shopping trips when you’re tired or hungry? Are you as patient, focused, and alert as you should be? Probably not. The same holds true for your child! When you’re out and about this holiday season, pay extra attention to both your child’s needs and your own. If possible, try shopping when the crowds are a bit lessened, pack snacks, and plan shorter trips that are more manageable for you both.
Spread Out the Gifts - Whether you space out how many gifts your child opens at once to how many new toys are available at playtime, allowing them to focus on fewer presents or new toys at a given time is one of our favorite seasonal tips. They won’t be so overstimulated, and you can keep some of the goodies for when you need a new distraction down the road.
Stay Active - Exercise is good for all of us, but can be an especially helpful tool for your child that struggles with attention issues. Get outside if weather permits, or set up some indoor fun to get their bodies moving and mind focused. Between all the holiday meals, car rides, and get-togethers, giving your child an outlet for extra energy is a healthy choice for everyone.
Recognize the Good - With all the chaos of the holiday season, it can be easy to take for granted when your child is behaving well. Don’t let those moments go unnoticed. Be specific and timely with your praise so that they quickly and easily connect their behavior with your words.
The holidays are a busy time, but with some prep work, planning, and a positive attitude, you’ll be enjoying your time together as a family!
Winter break is also a great time to add new, structured activities to your routine to keep everyone on track! If you haven’t started your Fast ForWord program, now is a great time. Fast ForWord is a reading intervention that helps kids pay attention longer, follow multi-step directions, read better, and understand more. In just 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week, your child could be making huge improvements in how they learn. Give your child the gift of confidence this year with Fast ForWord. Contact us today to get started!