How to support children with ADHD at Christmas

Christmas can come with additional challenges for kids with ADHD, so here’s how you can make things easier for them

Christmas is one of the most exciting times of year for children. They love all the pretty sparkly lights and the decorations and will be very excited about receiving presents. They will love having time off school and they will enjoy all the extra fun, games and activities on offer.

However, for children with ADHD, all this means is that you need to accept that they will be more hyperactive and possibly emotional than usual. So here are my top tips for navigating the festive season with your ADHD children.

1. Keep them occupied

Being bored is never good for ADHD children. So try to include them in the Christmas preparations such as shopping, wrapping presents, making decorations, and cooking.

Try and have something planned each day, especially during the period between Christmas and New Year. The ADHD child’s brain will need something to look forward to. So, look for child-friendly activities and events that are happening near you, and see if you can include one each day. You can also plan some play dates with friends.

Try and get your child to go outside as much as possible so they can expend some of their energy. If it’s snowing, they will love nothing more than playing in the snow, but any outdoor time is beneficial!

2. Stagger the presents

While ADHD children may want everything now, it’s a great idea to ask relatives or friends who are visiting after Christmas day to save the presents and bring them with them. Unexpected presents after Christmas day always give the ADHD child something new to be interested in and excited by. And it’s also a good idea to hide away a few presents which you ‘miraculously find’ later on Christmas Day afternoon.

3. Monitor sugar intake

An ADHD brain will be very excited by the chocolate and sweets in their stocking, in their presents and on the tree! Denying never goes down well, but delaying ‘just for a bit’ usually works. So, if you ask them what they would like to eat later on this afternoon and then what they would like to eat this evening they will happily tell you, and usually wait if they know it’s coming.

4. Prepare for downtime

Even the most hyperactive ADHD kids will want some downtime, so make sure you’ve got plenty of art and craft materials ready for days when they just want to sit at the table and draw or paint. It’s always handy to have some felt tips and some colouring-in books, or something new that will excite the child.

5. Consider buying noise-cancelling headphones

If your ADHD child is very sensitive to noise, consider making sure one of their Christmas presents is a very good set of noise-cancelling headphones. This means that when it all gets too much, they can retreat into their own world.

Buying yourself your own set isn’t a bad idea either. Then when they are at their hyperactive, noisiest best, you can disappear into your own world of peace and relaxing ballads.

6. Factor in some time for you

Whether that is an evening out with friends or a romantic dinner with your partner, make sure that during the festive period you get at least one day or evening completely to yourself. The kids will be quite happy if they get a day when they choose exactly what they want to watch on the television with auntie, uncle, Nan or Grandad, and you can escape for some well-deserved quality grown-up time.

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, £19.99

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