Two weeks off school. Off schedules. Homework. Routines. Maybe even a few extra days off work for mom and dad. Sounds so good. Until reality sets in. 12 days of kids at home. No school. No schedules. No homework. No routines. YIKES!! If you or your child have ADD – double YIKES!!! Now add in the excitement, hype and expectation of the holidays. Major stress for you. Major stress for your ADD child.
I must admit, I loved days off with my kids. Especially holiday break. I wanted it to be a steady stream of Hallmark moments. We had plenty of those. But I’m a planner and I made sure we still had structured time, routines, play dates and out of the house adventures, especially for my ADD kids. There were a few meltdowns and need for reinforcements, but overall lots of good memories. But there comes a day when enough is enough and EVERYBODY needs to go back to school!
Here are a few things we had in place and lots more ideas I gathered to share with you:
Structured Time. Lazy days of holiday break sound tempting but ADD kids need structure. They need to know what’s going to happen everyday and what’s expected of them. But not to worry, you can still be a little flexible. Keep your routines in place. Bedtimes. Meal times. Good food. Medication (if they’re on it). Alternate structured days at home with out of the house adventures. Build in some flexibility for times you see that your kid needs downtime.
At Home activities. Keep up regular at home activities; making beds, helping around the house, math practice and chores. Then add in the fun. Cooking, baking and making decorations are possibilities, and there’s so much more. Check out our list of ideas but be sure to choose things your child will be comfortable with. Choose things with the level of structure they need. Things that are familiar, but with some new challenges. Something they can do independently, and some you can do together.
Get out of the House. ADD kids get pretty fidgety, especially after too many days indoors. They need a change of scenery and chance to get outside their heads and get their bodies moving. Going places will stimulate their imaginations with fresh ideas. Check out our list of ideas, but again, choose and adapt things to work for your ADD child. When you go to public places like the museum or library, go at less busy time of day. Limit the amount of time you’re there. And be sure to let them take breaks as needed.
Allow time to be creative. ADD kids are visual thinkers, with very active imaginations. They need time and ways to be creative or all that positive energy may come out in less than optimal ways. Be sure their days include time spending drawing, building or making stuff. Time spent on their tech devices doesn’t count as creative time. The holidays are ripe with opportunities to cook, bake and decorate, so be sure to let them participate. Sign them up for creative activities at the park district or library. Be sure their gifts include art and building supplies.
Play Dates. Remember, your friends and neighbors are off school too and you can help each other out. Instead of kids ending up at your house at random days and times, make plans ahead of time. Arrange times your kids play at their house, giving you a break and change of scenery for them. Another day, they come to your house. Be sure it’s someone your ADD child is comfortable playing with, maybe another friend with ADD.
It’s okay to say no. Not everything has to happen. My absolute favorite thing to say no to is sleepovers. I sound like the Grinch of all time, but you’ve got to admit no child ever came home from a sleepover well rested. And who in their right mind wants to host one? Sleepovers with two or more ADD kids is going to be a nightmare that lasts for days, for everybody involved.
Don’t take it out on them. Holidays are intense, and we’ve all had those moments when June Cleaver goes Godzilla, but whatever you do, don’t take it out on your ADD kid. Their voice is the one you hear because it’s the loudest, so they tend to be the first ones we correct. They may be spinning around house like whirling dervish, but instead of losing it, finds ways pull them aside and privately redirect them to more appropriate behavior or activity. Give yourself a time out when needed. Take a few deep breaths to calm and clear your mind and remember, this too shall pass.
Call in reinforcements. It’s okay to admit when you need help, especially when the incessant chatter and activity of ADD, combined with holiday demands, becomes too much. Call grandma. Your sister. The ‘funcle’ of the family. You and the kids can benefit from an extra pair of hands and fresh perspective on fun. Who in the family really gets your kid? Or who can hang with your other kids, so you can give your ADD kid some one on one time.
It’s your holiday too. As parents we need to think kids first, but it’s your holiday too, so schedule some ‘me time’. Do you want a massage? Lunch with girlfriends? Date night with your spouse? Schedule a sitter, even if it’s to entertain kids downstairs so you can wrap packages upstairs, or soak in a tub uninterrupted. Arrange for a cleaning service, even if it’s not part of your regular routine.
One on One time. There may be times you ADD child just can’t go with the flow any more. Whether they’re housebound, tired of being in a group or struggling with too much activity that’s out of their comfort zone, it may be time to pull them aside for some one on one. Get a sitter for your other kids and have an away from the house adventure designed just for them. Or maybe its quiet time at home reading aloud or playing their favorite game. Giving them your full attention can be very calming and help them get through holidays.
So many gifts. Too many gifts. Pace it. Remember your ADD kid can either hyper focus or get distracted, you may not know until it’s gift opening time. They may only have eyes for one gift at a time or want to tear through everything and need to ‘see’ them later. Tearing through the stack is never ok at our house. We like to plan ahead and slow things down with one gift at a time, so kids appreciate their gifts and say their thank yous along the way.
As parents we want to make the holidays special, especially for our kids, but it can be overwhelming all around. I hope these thoughts have been helpful and gave you some ideas for the managing the time and activities, especially for your children with ADD. They are remarkable kids and by planning ahead, we can make things more enjoyable for them too.
What do you do to maintain sanity throughout your winter holiday break?