The Christmas holiday period can be challenging for parents with children with learning and behavioural differences such as ADHD or Autism. While other parents are getting excited and making plans, you may be feeling the opposite and are perhaps tense, anxious and more exhausted than others.
This is especially the case for single working parents juggling the demands of work, home-life and school duties. As the school term begins to wind down for the holidays, you may feel disappointment that your child didn’t get a decent part in the school nativity play (again!), that they misbehaved at the school fete, or were excluded from other social and festive activities due to unpredictable behaviour.
Perhaps also you are concerned how your child will behave at the in-laws, or generally how you will keep their behaviour in check at home. So, as my Christmas gift to you, I have put together a few of my favourite tips for a happy and peaceful loving home!
Top Tips for a Perfect Christmas
- Create a good deed planner with your child by writing down realistic goals in which to spread a little kindness. It might be a little note left under the windscreen of a neighbouring car wishing that person a lovely day; it could be baking cakes for your local elderly residential home; it might be phoning a grandparent for a chat or making a parent breakfast in bed.
- Plan ahead: fill a wall chart with several festivities, from feeding the swans to a trip to a museum, pantomime, visit to Santa or winter wonderland. This way you are creating structure and routine and fun things to look forward to.
- Monitor your child’s intake of sugary, chemically laden foods – these will only negatively affect your child’s behaviour and mood and lead to unhealthy eating habits, food cravings and addictions.
- Try to maintain a little homework and small chores around the home. Even if only clearing away toys, making their bed, helping with clearing the table or doing some dusting – 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, don’t respond and even leave the room where safe to do so. Engaging only adds fuel to the already smoking fire!
- Bedtimes are still important even though if it is 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 is 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.
- I am often asked about tips for sleep, so here are a few options to try:
- Ask your family doctor to prescribe some melatonin supplements – these are natural hormones made by your body’s pineal gland and secreted during sleep cycles.
- Buy some essential oils – a favourite of mine is Neom Organics Oils, who have formulated a bespoke SLEEP oil as well as a pillow mist.
- Plan a walk in the park or at least 30 minutes of exercise before tea-time.
- After supper, make a warm bath and add some essential oils in and/or after the bath (some ideas to start you off include: lavender, cedarwood, frankincense, marjoram or roman chamomile). Warm a little oil in the palm of your hands before applying directly to the chest and arms.
- Put pyjamas on a radiator so they are nice and warm to put on after the bath.
- Invest in a weighted duvet or blanket; these are thought to be especially helpful for children and adults with anxiety, insomnia, sensory processing difficulties, autism and ADHD.
- Spend time together making Christmas decorations, decorating the tree, making home-made Christmas cards with glitter, felt and sparkly pens, baking Christmas treats for Santa and the rest of the family.
- Make a festive box of goodies for less fortunate children; consider sponsoring a child in another country, or providing a gift/donation towards great causes around the globe. For ideas see:
- Practise the art of listening, sit down with your child read a book together or take turns in making up stories.
Remember – your time is the most precious and priceless gift you can give this Christmas!
My website has much more information and tips on practising positive parenting.
And here are some more tips for parents on how to stay sane!