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  • Kristen Stuppy, MD

Have a safe and wonderful holiday season with less stress

Updated: Apr 2, 2021

Thanksgiving kicks off a whole season of holiday gatherings. Holidays should be fun, but the change in routine and long days can wear on anyone, especially people with ADHD.

Survive the holidays with these tips!
  • Sleep: Schedule time for everyone to get to bed on time. Everyone needs to sleep to feel their best! If you're traveling, see the National Sleep Foundation's Travel page for travel-specific tips.

  • Don't overschedule: When we try to do too much, everything is rushed. It's okay to say no to some gatherings or parties. Alternate which family members you see each holiday if it's too hard to see everyone each time.

  • Let go of perfection: If all the tasks of getting your house ready for guests is overwhelming, go back to the basics. What really needs to happen to have a fun time? Are special decorations really necessary or is it okay to skimp on all the hoopla? Will your guests even notice that the top of the refrigerator hasn't been dusted? Chances are they'll be happy if your home is full of family and friends to catch up with and enjoy.

  • Follow family traditions: Change is hard for many kids (and adults), especially those with ADHD. Repeating family traditions can help kids find comfort in the daily routine changes that happen each holiday.

  • Set a budget: Money isn't unlimited and it isn't what brings happiness. Determine how much you can spend for each holiday and stick to that budget. Give gifts of time or talent rather than store bought items that will soon be forgotten.

  • Talk to kids in advance of travel plans and set expectations. While it may seem fun to whisk them off on a surprise adventure, this can lead to undue anxiety in some kids. Let kids travel with at least one comfort item if needed.

  • Get moving: Exercise is always important. Don't let the busy holidays keep you from taking care of yourself. Kids also need time to move, so don't let them spend their days off school attached to a screen. Get them outside and active!

  • Food preparation: Complicated recipes aren't required. Simply have food that tastes great and is easy to prepare - even better if it can be made in advance - just be sure that it is always stored at proper temperatures and clean hands are always used to prepare and serve food.

  • Avoid germs: If someone is not feeling well, especially if they have a fever, keep them home. Ask everyone to wash hands before going through a self-serve buffet. No one wants a fun time ruined with illness!

  • Helping hands: If you're hosting for the holiday, ask guests to bring a menu item. If you're going to someone's for the day, ask what you can bring. Get everyone involved in helping with dishes and picking up at the end of the day. If everyone chips in, no one's load is too much!

  • Choose foods wisely: We celebrate many things with food, but it doesn't have to be only junk foods. There are many yummy healthy options that can be shared at gatherings. Encourage kids to try small bites of new foods if they're open to it, but never force them to eat. Lead by example and put lots of healthy foods on your plate! Yes, it's okay to still have dessert, but pace yourself. If you're nearly full from the healthy foods, a small portion of dessert will feel satisfying.

  • Drink responsibly: Adults may choose to indulge in adult beverages, but don't overdo it. At the least you might embarrass yourself in front of friends or family. At the worst you could cause physical harm to yourself or others. If you see someone who is not drinking, do not encourage them to have a drink. There are many reasons a person may not drink and encouraging a bad habit does not reflect well on you. If you're hosting, have non-alcoholic options available too. If there are children and teens around, be sure they don't have access to the alcohol.

  • Never force kids to give hugs and kisses to anyone, not even Grandma. If they aren't comfortable with physical affection offer a fist bump or high five.

  • Find more great tips to help kids through the holidays at Understood.

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