I love this time of year. The blinking lights on the front walk, the aroma of freshly baked cookies and spiced cider from the kitchen, and the sounds of our favorite Christmas music playing in the background create an exciting environment. As wonderful as they are, the holidays usher in huge distractions for children. She’s trying to muddle through geometry homework while deciding what to wear as a “helping elf” for the special Christmas photos in the community. Or perhaps he’s perfecting his Christmas list when you thought he was working on vocabulary words. And both your kids are trying to study for vocab tests while wondering what their Chanukkah gift will be tonight. What’s a supportive parent to do?
Although you may just want to postpone the whole holiday until school’s out for the break, that’s not really practical. Try to stick to a routine as much as possible. Parties, shopping, school/worship events, and “special holiday presentations” on television can distract your kids more than ever. There’s not an easy way to combat it, other than purposing to maintain some sense of normalcy during the last weeks before the New Year.
December is probably the most overwhelming time of year for all of us, and it can be especially overwhelming for our ADHD kids. Here are a few tips to help you keep your kids on track, and help make this Season truly a wonderful time for you and your family:
Share the Love . I know it should go without saying, but during this blessed Season of the year, make sure your children take time to give to others. Each year, our family chooses someone outside our family to bless over the holidays. We’ve not always had money to buy gifts, so we sometimes gave the gift of our time or our prayers. At our house, it helps to breathe deeply and remember that our problems are small compared to many others in the world. That’s why we take time to talk to our children and ask them to decide how our family will share this Christmas.
Reviewing Reviews . If your child faces tests or exams at the end of the grading period, start NOW to review material. You don’t have to wait until the exam is announced, thanks to a little section in almost every textbook called the chapter review. These only take a few minutes to read out loud to your child, and will begin to wake up the memory of the material they have already covered. Getting the calendar out and assigning chapters to specific days is a great first step. Reviewing classroom notes is the second step. Don’t spend an inordinate amount of time. Set a timer, and place a limit – 10 minutes, 20 minutes -you know the increment of time that works best for your child. Later on at exam time, you’ll be glad you did – and so will your child.
Keep it Simple . Holidays don’t have to be such elaborate affairs! Chanukkah and Christmas are about giving and family, and those should be the focus. Give your kids a gift budget; tell them you’ll only spend X amount on their gifts this year. Give them a list and have them buy gifts for those on it. Instead of having a huge Christmas party, have a pot luck dinner, or a cookie and sandwich swap. One Saturday a few years ago, we decided to have a group of friends over that night, and I served four pots of soup and had the guests bring bread and desserts. Easy, fast, and fun. Go easy on the decorating. Use gift bags for presents – to cut down on cost we’ve even used white sandwich bags with a Christmas stamp on the front. Last year a friend used cloth shopping bags for all her gifts.
If some events require lots of preparation (dressing for the Nutcracker), travel (visits to distant cousins), or waiting in long lines (seeing elaborate light shows), consider trading them in for a simpler version. You can watch the Nutcracker on television, call the cousins, or ride around town looking at lights.
Keep it Scheduled . Don’t pack your schedule! Don’t go to every event. Don’t make your children sing in the choir if they hate it. If you don’t really like the office Christmas party, or if you’re secretly bored with the Christmas cantata, then stay home! Pick the things most important to your family. Ask your kids and find out what traditions mean the most to them. Kayla’s boys look forward to bargaining for the Christmas tree with her husband (their record is a $5 tree!), and then to hot soup and cider afterwards. We like making special ornaments for our tree. These little traditions are what make the holidays special.
ADHD kids like to have the comfort of a routine, so try to make your life as normal as possible this month. In addition, for all the ‘abnormal’ days, make a calendar, and share it with your kids, so they’ll know what to expect when. Don’t forget school and homework. Spelling isn’t very exciting, but it is part of the routine, and you certainly don’t want your child to get behind.
Keep It Real. It’s a never ending struggle, but remember to keep the real meaning of the Season in the forefront of your celebrations. Whether you observe Christmas or Chanukkah or another holiday, make sure your family focuses on love and giving.
PS Kayla: My favorite tradition is to find someone that will listen to me read the book Papa Panov’s Special Day. It’s my very favorite Christmas story.
So…who wants to volunteer this year? 🙂