- If Daddy wants to sleep by the tree and guard the gifts, you might consider letting him. I wanted to give Luke the benefit of the doubt and I didn’t want to sleep alone on Christmas, so we set rules and went to bed like always. But impulsivity got in the way and Luke was opening packages, alone, at 4:30 am Christmas morning 2009.
We are traveling this year and we’ll wake together in a hotel room on Christmas morning, so I’m not worried about sneaking packages. I am distraught that waking up on Christmas morning in a hotel room without even a tree or a few twinkling lights will not feel like Christmas, but not worried about preliminary gift opening since we will be awake the minute he is.
I have been thinking about what we’d do if we were going to be at home for Christmas though (since weather could postpone our travel plans). It’s tough. I still don’t want Daddy sleeping by the tree. I am wondering if leaving one present for each of them in their rooms that they could open without us and then wake us after would work. Maybe that would get him beyond the overwhelming desire to finally be able to open presents after two-months of retail Christmas buildup. We want Luke to learn to override his impulses and make proper decisions, which he can’t do without the opportunity and practice.
- Learn to say “so what?!” The holiday will not be idyllic with an ADHD child (or any child in general for that matter). It’s a time full of over stimulation and little to no normal structure. It exacerbates all that’s undesirable about ADHD. If your child opens a present or two without you, say, “so what?!” If they sneak a few cookies or swipe a finger full of icing off the cake, say, “so what?!” If they can’t sleep due to overwhelming excitement, give them some Melatonin, and say, “so what?!” It’s just a few days and, in the grand scheme of things, a few rules broken for a few days aren’t a big deal and certainly aren’t worth ruining the holiday over. Say it with me, “so what!?”
- Don’t take your ADHD child’s indiscretions personally. They don’t intend to flat out disobey you as it may seem in the disappointment of the moment. This was a big lesson learned for us last year. We stormed through the morning with “why can’t he just…?” attitudes and it only made everyone upset. Remember that there’s a Ferrari engine with Flintstones brakes inside that cute little head. They aren’t disobeying you to get a rise out of you, they just can’t put on the brakes sometimes. Yes, we need to teach them to, but we can’t expect perfection from any child.
- Keep praising them. It may be harder to see appropriate behaviors during the holiday and break from routine, but you have to continue to praise them. My favorite is “I like the way you are…” or “I like it when you…” It’s always more effective to catch them being good.
- Don’t forget activities for your kids, besides being showered with gifts. Try to plan something that is a typical part of your schedule or let them pick something that is suited to their needs and special just for them (a trip to the do-it-yourself pottery studio to build with clay maybe). Be sure to schedule free time too — a tight schedule that is out of the norm will exhaust everyone. We all need some time to key down, especially during the holidays. Try to stick with therapy or OT appointments to keep some semblance of routine. Having a routine and sticking to it greatly minimizes the complications of ADHD.
Above all, keep focused on the wonder of the holidays — enjoy family and friends, and surround yourself with joy and laughter.