If you are a parent raising a child with a challenging behavioural difference such as ADHD, you may view the approaching Christmas holidays with mixed feelings, to say the least. Instead of the anticipated excitement you might instead be experiencing dread, and feeling tense, anxious and more exhausted than other people around you.
This is particularly so for single working parents juggling the demands of work, home-life and school duties. There are many reasons for this: you may be sad your child didn’t get a decent part in the school nativity play (again!); or perhaps they misbehaved at the school fete. You may be worried about how your child will cope as school winds down into a more chaotic and unstructured environment; or you’re concerned how they will behave at the in-laws. In general, you’re probably fretting about how you’ll keep their behaviour in check at home while school is closed.
Top tips for a happy Christmas!
As my Christmas gift to you, I’ve put together a few of my favourite tips aimed at maintaining a happy, more peaceful home during the holidays:
- Get yourself a planner, diary or wall chart and start planning as much of the holidays as possible – from trips to the park to full days out – to establish structure and routine. It will also forewarn your child of the plans for each day. Children with ADHD won’t be enthusiastic when you try to spring last minute plans on them!
- Don’t be tempted to over-indulge your child with sugary, chemically laden foods – these will only affect their behaviour and mood negatively, and create addictions to unhealthy foods.
- Try to maintain homework and small chores around the home. Even if it’s only clearing away toys, making their bed, helping with clearing the table, etc, this provides an incentive to reward your child verbally and in action.
- Incentivise all desired behaviours with immediate rewards. Scientific evidence has shown that children with ADHD won’t be motivated or respond to rewards promised at the end of the day or week.
- At the same time, practise ignoring low-level disruptive behaviours – simply ignore and don’t respond!
- Bedtimes are still important, even though it’s the holidays. Explain to your child that he or she can go to bed an hour or half an hour later, but don’t be tempted to let them stay up until midnight just because it’s the holidays. Children with ADHD function better after a good night’s sleep, and lack of sleep will only make them cranky and more difficult to deal with the next day.
- Spend time together making Christmas decorations, decorating the tree, making Christmas cards with glitter, felt and sparkly pens, baking Christmas treats for family, friends or Santa.
- Get your children into the spirit of giving – plan to visit an elderly relative or neighbour and make a Festive Box of goodies for them.
- Practise the art of listening – sit down with your child and read a book together or take it in turns making up stories. Remember: your time is the most precious and priceless gift you can give this Christmas!