The holiday season might have many parents searching out for an ADHD holiday survival guide. So many changes happen during the holidays, that oftentimes sticking to your ADHD management quickly goes out the window. You have parties to go to and decorations to put up, and schedules change. All these things can add up to problems if you don’t prepare properly.
Changes present problems for ADHD and cause stress for both parents and children, especially around the holidays. To help eliminate the fear of the stress, many parents and kids need help during this time.
If you find yourself in that position, don’t worry; we have the perfect ADHD holiday survival guide for you. In this ADHD holiday survival guide, we go over several of the problem areas related to ADHD and the holidays. From traveling to sleep to what to eat, we want to give you some quick tips on what to do to help make this time of year fun for everyone. Read on for great tips, and start planning now for a great holiday season with friends and family.
ADHD Holiday Survival: Travel
The first stop with our ADHD holiday survival guide goes to holiday travel. Let’s face it; no one really likes holiday travel. Most of us hate the idea of traveling at any time of year. Add in the extra stress of holidays, the traffic congestion, and long airport lines, and our collective blood pressure starts rising.
Holiday travel can cause anxiety for most anyone. Individuals with ADHD might experience higher levels of stress and confusion, not to mention an escalation of symptoms. For parents wanting to just get from point A to point B with the whole family intact, we all just want to understand how to maintain sanity. Here are some quick tips to help remove the turbulence from your travel:
Plan well in advance
In order to make your ADHD holiday survival with travel work, you absolutely must plan things out early. You need to know exactly where you need to be and when, including mealtimes, opportunities to take medicine, and sleep times. One of the greatest risks for ADHD symptoms to get worse during the holidays involves upsetting the normal routine.
Your comprehensive ADHD treatment plan depends on structure and consistency. This applies to meal times and when you sleep and when you take your medication. To make sure that you can do these things when you need to when traveling you need to plan things out in detail.
Make sure you know where you need to be, when, and how you’re going to get there. Walk through your plan with whomever you plan to travel with so that everyone is on the same page. Having a plan will help ease the chaos and stress of traveling and will make ADHD more manageable as you do travel.
Have a Backup Plan
No matter how well you might plan, things can still go awry. The holidays just increase the chances of travel plans not going like you want. You might plan for your drive to the grandparents to take four hours, but due to the traffic that could end up as five or six hours.
With ADHD, you need to make sure you have a contingency plan. This means that you plan for a meal out at a set time, but you still keep back a snack in case you get delayed. For everything you need, make sure you pack a backup or extra.
Think of common travel problems such as lost bags on flights, and come up with a functional work around. While you can’t plan for every issue, you can still prepare for a lot of things, and preparation will pay off.
ADHD Holiday Survival: Diet
The second part of our ADHD holiday survival guide has to include diet. When talking about ADHD management, diet plays a significant part in how well you can manage symptoms. Unfortunately, around the holidays, our diets tend to suffer no matter how good our intentions might be. Both Thanksgiving and Christmas tend to be filled with all sorts of food options, most of which aren’t good for us.
How do you navigate the food landscape of the holiday season without missing out on the good food? That question matters to many parents who want the best for their kids, but who also want them to enjoy the food at the holiday season. Let’s look closer at some quick options for striking a healthy balance.
Keep Track of the Sweets
With holiday food, you could almost start anywhere with the bad food options. From bread to casseroles to gravy to dessert, you have a lot of poor food options. The worst options, though, most likely start at the dessert table. While you should limit your poor food intake in general, one area that you really can keep track of happens to be sweets.
To help manage your ADHD and avoid a sugar crash, you should keep track of how many sweets you eat. During the holiday weeks, you should make sure you avoid any sweet snacks between meals. At meals, you should only eat one serving of sweets for each lunch and dinner. Also, you should limit the sugary drinks.
While you can stretch your diet some with the foods you eat, you should still stay away from sugary sodas or sweet tea. Drinking water instead will help your body with digesting the other foods you eat and help you maintain a consistent energy level.
Make Sure You Stay Balanced
Not only should you keep track of the sweets and other foods, you also need to strike a healthy balance. Some foods we eat during the holidays include some of the worst foods for ADHD. While the holidays provide an opportunity to splurge just a little, your body still needs those fruits and vegetables. You don’t have to load up on as much fruits, vegetables, and healthy nuts, but you need to still include some at each meal.
A good way to keep something of a balance would be to add a serving of fruits or vegetables for every serving of meat or sweets that you eat. By eating some amount of the good foods, you will naturally eat less of the bad foods. You also will probably end up feeling better and more alert when you get done eating.
You don’t have to eat a whole lot of the good options for it to make a difference. Every little bit counts and will help the transition back into your regular diet when the holidays end.
Remember that Sweets should be an Occasional Treat
Ultimately, when it comes to food during the holidays, the best piece of advice is simply to remember to keep sweets as a treat. We can all eat sweets and pies and cakes every now and then. Every now and then, such sweets provide positive benefits and make us feel better. The problem comes, though, when we eat them all the time.
When it comes to the holidays, we simply need to remember that sweets need to always be an occasional treat. Don’t rush through eating these types of food that you enjoy so much. Instead of rushing and eating several servings, stick to one serving of dessert per meal and eat it slowly. Take your time to enjoy it and treat it as a special occasion. Keeping this in mind might help reduce the motivation to keep going back for more and more and more.
ADHD Holiday Survival: Sleep
The third portion of our ADHD holiday survival guide covers our sleep. No matter the child, children of all temperaments tend not to value sleep as much as they should. Most kids would rather stay awake late playing games or wake up early to make the most of their day. While being active and playing matters, so does sleep, and getting too little sleep can cause a lot of issues.
Be Extra Vigilant about Screens
Holiday travel makes it so that you can’t control a lot of things about your sleeping environment. As a result you might need to change some things about your ADHD sleep routine. Many times traveling during the holidays means that you sleep several nights in hotels or someone’s spare bedroom. While you might not be able to control as much of the environment as you would like, you still can control screens at bed.
During the holidays, make sure that you keep yourself and your kids away from screens just before and while in bed. Your body has enough difficulties adapting to and falling asleep in a new place. Make things easier where you can. This starts with limiting screens as much as possible and making sure the bedroom stays free of electronics.
Avoid Long Midday Naps – Encourage Longer Sleep at Night
In addition to limiting screens at night, you also should try to limit sleeping during the day. Even though many of us like to sneak in a nap after those large holiday meals, we would probably all be better off without it—or at least without a long nap. Your body needs to get consistent long periods of deep sleep, and a long nap might throw off good sleep later.
To avoid throwing off your body’s internal sleep rhythm you should try to stay awake during the day, or nap for short periods only. This way, you should be exhausted enough to sleep soundly at night. By exhausting your body, you should be able to go to sleep easier and sleep longer. Overall, this will help your body adjust even though other parts of your sleep routine may have change.
ADHD Holiday Survival: Social Interactions
The final section of our ADHD holiday survival guide covers social interactions. Holidays tend to be packed full of social interactions with new people and new faces. Whether at the office work party, school holiday party, holiday community parade, or just with visiting relatives, you will more than likely be surrounded by a lot of people during the holidays.
For people with ADHD, social interactions can be challenging. With patience, though, anyone can work towards improving social interactions. To help with social settings in the meantime, try some of these tips.
Don’t Force Interactions
We all know by now that many holiday interactions can simply feel weird or awkward. For many with ADHD, that just makes this time of year all the more difficult. If you or your child is trying to improve social interactions with ADHD, don’t put extra pressure on yourself during the holidays. Simply put: don’t force social interactions.
You don’t have to interact with everyone at the work party or have an extended conversation with everyone at the family reunion. You also shouldn’t put extra pressure on yourself making yourself feel like you need to do more to interact. Rather let the conversations come naturally. If they don’t, though, don’t sweat it. The stress won’t help make anything better.
For kids especially, this rule is important. If your child with ADHD simply feels awkward interacting with distant family, don’t make things worse by insisting they try “harder.” Help them get more comfortable by allowing them extra time to play as they would like. You never know, they might start to feel more comfortable and the interaction might just happen on its own.
Go in with a Game Plan
If you find that the most difficult part of social interactions is keeping up the conversation, you need to go in with a game plan. Many people with ADHD just have trouble with small talk or keeping a conversation going. The best way to combat this is to have a list of things you want to discuss or questions to ask.
Before you go to a party or an event, think of several topics you might want to discuss and write those down. Don’t read what you wrote down during a conversation, but refer to it throughout the night as a reminder. Think of interesting questions or topics that you could relate to others on.
This strategy can work well with both family and acquaintances. The questions or conversation ideas should help provide you a place to start a conversation and hopefully the conversation just continues from there. If you need help thinking of questions, don’t worry, there’s even an app for that.
Interact Through Games
Questions and topics work well enough, but another option might be to simply play games. Most everyone loosens up when playing games, which can make awkward social interactions less so. If you have a party to go to, think of games to play beforehand. The best kind of games can be ones with little setup, like mind or word games.
Such games can serve as an icebreaker to break the silence and help people open up. Additionally, some people with ADHD can relate better to concepts than people. Games involving others, though, bring in both the concepts and people and help eliminate barriers to social interactions.
Making the Most of your Holiday with our ADHD Holiday Survival Guide Tips
Holidays need to be about family, food, and memories. The last thing anyone wants is ADHD symptoms to go off the rails and ruin the good times. Managing ADHD symptoms consistently and well can present challenges. The holiday season provides an all too real reminder of that.
Just keep in mind that you won’t be perfect at managing your symptoms especially over the holidays. Don’t let that stress you out, though. We all fall behind or fail to stay on top of our ADHD management. You can afford to have a few stumbles, without having to fear that you have failed miserably.
Use this ADHD holiday survival guide as a great place to start for keeping yourself or your child on a good track for symptom management during the holiday months. Just keep in mind that you can bend the rules every now and again.
Also remember that if you do get off track, even way off track, you can always start back anytime on your routine. It might be slow going at first, but don’t just give up altogether. Work to get yourself back on track after the holidays end. You will thank yourself later when you do.