Christmas is a wonderful time of the year. Christmas can be magical and full of snuggly, warm fuzzy feelings of comfort and joy. Mistletoe and wine.
Maybe not if you have a child with ADHD who finds this time of year really tricky.
This year has been tough. Covid, lockdown, quarantine, cancelled exams, missed friendships, trauma and loss.
Your child may have enjoyed not being at school yet craved routine. Your child may have hated home-school work but enjoyed the freedom of being outdoors.
We are all mixed up. Nothing is in place. Normal is a thing we all crave.
So the idea of a ‘normal’ Christmas is very appealing.
But you need to be realistic about what your child can manage. Particularly with the experiences they may have had since March.
So what are the difficulties – and what can you do to help?
Too many sounds, smells. Too many people. The overexcitement of presents. Visits from other family members not seen in a while. The resulting behaviour can be challenging, silly or just aggravating for the rest of the family.
HOW TO HELP…
Have a plan. Make a visual schedule of what will happen in the day. Keep to a routine and don’t deviate if possible.
Make time for going outdoors for a run and to get fresh air. Great distraction and much needed time away from the sensory overwhelm.
Too often our sense of what we expect flies out of the window when the wider family come round. You may feel under pressure to make sure everything seems perfect, your children have immaculate manners and sit at the table for the whole Christmas meal.
The result that your child with ADHD fall short of what is expected and you may feel the pressure to be stricter and enforce rules you don’t usually. This won’t go down well..
HOW TO HELP…
Have realistic expectations. Let your child sit in another room, be on their headphones, eat different food. Don’t expect them to play a family game if they don’t want to. Your aim is to make your child feel comfortable and relaxed. Bat off family comments. You are being the parent your child needs.
We know our children with ADHD get ‘fixed’ on things. This can be all consuming and they could get lost down a rabbit hole. To some extent this will always be the case. But at Christmas when you want them to engage with Granny, it may be frustrating for you. Plus, there are only so many times you can hear about the details of a Tesla car.
HOW TO HELP…
It’s okay if your child wants to do their own thing. If they get stuck on wanting something, write out a plan or agreement when it will happen. Make a fact book and refer to that if they keep repeating the same things. Decide a time together when you’d like them to join you to watch a movie. Put it on the schedule.
There will always be the comparisons made between siblings. Your child with ADHD has heard approximately 20,000 more negative messages by the age of 12 , than a child without this neurodiverse condition. So no wonder your child feels left out, hard done by, sad and angry. These feelings of frustration may be taken out on the siblings who they see as perfect and the parents’ favourite. The result is a family fraught with jealousy, rage and one-up-manship.
HOW TO HELP…
Make time for each child in your family and don’t have expectations that you will all do things together. Particularly at Christmas. This may feel tough. But whilst there is friction, trying to play happy families will leave you disappointed and heartbroken.
Instead, find the things that your child with ADHD can do well and big them up. Make them feel the champion of something.
Please, please, please don’t feel you have to do it all. You don’t. Ask for help. Good enough is good enough. The important thing this year, is that I hope you are safe and well. And that you are with people you love.
Here’s to a 2021 full of the joy we crave and get back to ‘normal’ as soon as it is safe to do so.