Parents and children with Attention Deficit Disorder look forward to a holiday break from school. Everybody wants some free time to have fun and do those things that you donít usually have time to do. This lovely vision often turns into a nightmare with cranky kids and stressed out adults. How can you avoid the ADD holiday blues?
School provides a predictable structure, and when kids with ADD are out of school they need more structure at home. Have a definite time for getting up and going to bed. You might want to shift the time a bit to let them sleep in. Just donít let them sleep until noon each day and do whatever they feel like for the rest of the day. This makes it hard when itís time to go back to school. Work with your child to make a schedule that includes time for family, friends, physical activity, and quiet times.
One very important component of this schedule is limiting video and computer games. You also need to schedule television time. Most kids with ADD love to spend hours with electronics. Kids who have the expectation of unlimited video games, computer time, and television viewing tend to get surly when you want them to do anything else. So, limit these from the outset. Discuss the reasons for it with your children, and be firm in your resolve. Be proactive, not reactive. Kids who know what to expect and that the expectations will be followed feel more comfortable and supported, even if they still complain about the fact that you limited their time with electronics.
Feed them nutritious meals and limit junk food. Have scheduled times for the family to eat. That doesnít mean that they have to eat meals right at the exact same time each day. Have about a half hour range for each meal. Make it about the same time that they eat during the school week. Holiday sweets are a special treat. Donít cut them out altogether, but limit them to special times. Now is a good time to help your children stop drinking a lot of sugared beverages.
Make sure that they get some physical activities each day. This does not need to cost a lot of money, although a special skating trip or extra karate class is a nice way to celebrate time away from school. Free activities include going to the park, walking in the neighborhood, taking a walking tour of an interesting district in your city and doing yard work for yourself or somebody who needs it. Nearly free activities include going to a museum or zoo and driving to a nature preserve and walking.
Let them practice a leisure time activity that they enjoy. From coloring to kick boxing, most kids have something that they love to do. This is the time to let them more fully explore their interests. Take them to the library or on a field trip to help them get more information about their chosen passion.
Practice good sleep hygiene. This can be an important time to develop a sleep routine. Take the television, video games, and computers out of the room. Make the bedroom a room for sleeping. I know that this is hard for teens, but it is important. When the games are calling to them, sleep can lose out. Start winding their day down. Have them floss and brush their teeth. Let their mind and body know that it is time for bed. Make sure that the room is restful. This means that the bed, pillows, and covers are comfortable. Adjust the room temperature. Open a window for a bit of fresh air. They need to wear comfy night clothes. If their body is sticky from the dayís work, then have a warm shower or bath. Sometimes a light snack helps, but be sure to have your child brush his teeth afterwards. Watch the calories on these snacks.
Give them opportunities to help others. Sometimes adults forget how much children like to help others. Especially if the activity is a novelty, they can be extremely useful. Make a meal for a person who canít get out. Do some yard work for a person with limited mobility. Visit a nursing home with some cards and cookies. Call ahead first. Share a skill with a younger child. Take a younger child out to the park to play. Help a younger child learn to read. The list really is endless!
Decide what you are going to do about medication; you might want to get some input from your child. If your child takes medication, you will need to decide whether they will continue with the medication or have a med holiday. Continuing with medication makes a lot of sense for some children. Medication allows them to be more in control of their behaviors. It helps them stay out of trouble. Make sure that they get their medication on schedule.
If your child is taking a med holiday, know that their behavior will be different. Build even more behavioral supports into your routine. Understand that if their brain doesnít have the chemicals that it usually has via the medication, that they will not have as much control over their behavior. Donít schedule a lot of activities that your child will have difficulty with. Make sure that they have a safe place to go if they start feeling out of control. Support them, and work hard at staying positive. Both the adults and children may feel extra stress when the routine schedule of medication is stopped. Also, re-start the medication a few days before school resumes. This gives your child a chance to readjust to the medication. As always, consult your physician. These comments about medication are for informational purposes and are not given by a medical professional.
Donít take them on marathon shopping trips. Make the shopping trips less stressful on you. Leave the kids at home. Especially if a child is taking a medication holiday, asking him to go on a shopping trip that lasts for hours is asking for disaster. They are bored, and that ADD creativity kicks in. You will almost certainly not like their solution for fighting boredom.
Be realistic in your expectations. If your child is not taking his medication, donít expect him to behave like he is. Know your kidsí limits and respect them. Traveling brings its own set of joys and challenges. Think of what you, as an adult in charge, can do to help your child with the challenges. When things go wrong, find a way to make the situation better. Sometimes, it is a good thing just to let everybody have some space to calm down.
Holidays can be wonderful, but they are inherently stressful. In addition to keeping a good schedule for the youngsters with ADD, there are some things that you can do to make the holidays a better time for everybody. Understand that your stress level is probably higher now, too. You can help your children learn to deal with stress by modeling grace under pressure for them. Be explicit and let them know what you have found to help with stress. Practice being kinder than you need to be. Itís a good example for your kids to follow.