Putting On The Brakes This Holiday Season

Do you remember the scene in “The Polar Express” when the children are riding on the run-away train?  The main character exclaims “There’s no brakes – I can’t find the brakes!”  During the holiday season we often feel the same way as executive functioning system goes on overdrive to manage the various demands on our time including balancing additional activities on top of the typical routine, traveling to see family, and selecting gifts/preparing holiday meals.  For individuals with ADHD, the holidays can be particularly difficult.  In addition to the stresses associated with travelling, there are gifts to buy, relatives to see, and meals to prepare. Even though December comes every year, many feel ill-equipped to manage the variety of “to do’s” on our list and we long to also find the brakes!

Managing ADHD over the Holidays

If you happen to be an adult with ADHD or have children with ADHD, you know that challenges with focus or impulse control don’t take a break during the holidays which makes it important to try to keep to family routines as much as possible.  According to a recent article in ADHD Weekly as presented by CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention and Hyperactivity Disorder), planning ahead can make the journey smoother and more enjoyable.  Janette Patterson, MSW, calls it “organizing your toolbox”, and says you should think of it as a two-part project: the trip there and the visit itself. Check out Over the River and Through the Woods: Traveling with ADHD for wonderful suggestions to help us stay calm and enjoy the holidays!  Some examples include:

  • Stay Grounded – Teach your children mindfulness techniques, including deep breathing and relaxation exercises.
  • Planes, Trains, or Automobiles – Consider the best mode of travel based on how ADHD symptoms affect you or your child.
  • Purposeful Previewing – Identify situations that could be stressful or challenging, and think about how you’ll respond to them in advance

Traveling During the Holidays

Over 100 million Americans will travel during the holiday season this year.  That’s a lot of trips to grandma’s house!  If you are traveling in the car this holiday season, car games can be a fun way to spend some quality family time together as well as have some structure to make those long rides pass more quickly.  Themed Twenty Questions is a fun game where one player silently selects anything from sandwiches to Beyoncé; the rest of the family has 20 questions to guess the identity.  For more family fun car games, Parents Magazine presents 10 Fun Car Games the Whole Family Will Enjoy.

Gift Giving

In regard to gift giving, many of us struggle each year with trying to find the perfect gift for each special person in our lives without overdoing it.  Research suggests that individuals with ADHD are more likely to buy compulsively.  It can be difficult to select meaningful gifts without breaking your budget.  In the article, How Can You Manage Holiday Gift-Giving? There are wonderful alternatives to gift-giving that show how a gift of “you” is more valuable to your loved ones than anything you can buy.  Here are some favorites:

  • Write a poem for a friend and have it framed.
  • Connect with people. The memory with last far longer than a purchased gift.
  • Make a simple hand puppet for one of your children

Happy Holidays from all of us at PNC and enjoy the holiday ride!