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by Karen Sampson, MA
THE RUN-UP TO THE HOLIDAYS IS IN FULL
FORCE, offering everything from excitement to frenzy.
For those whose homes are affected by AD/HD, it is often a time of both
excitement and frenzy. For adults, couples, and families dealing with
AD/HD, the holidays take some additional thought and planning—and
a healthy dose of humor.
Each of us has an image of the “perfect” holiday in our
minds. Many of us create undue stress in our lives by trying to achieve
this image of perfection and end up missing out on the joy of the
season. Instead, with a pad of paper, calendar and a realistic set of
goals, we can plan and enjoy the holidays by following the advice of a
CHADD member who wrote to us: “Change the expectations so the
holiday works for you, not the other way around.”
So we dug into our archives in search of more gems like that. We found
many ideas to make this holiday season flow more smoothly and become a
pleasant experience in your home.
Many people affected by AD/HD have already heard the wisdom of budgeting
and still struggle with it—especially during the holidays, with
beautiful decorations and advertisements that all have the same goal of
convincing you to part with more money. It seems that modern holiday
celebrations are designed for overspending. But in a season meant to
bring joy, overspending can lead to stress, difficulty keeping up with
bills, and a host of other problems. So, seize the moment and consider
the following tips to help control holiday spending, before the season
gets the better of you.
1. Know yourself.
It is important to understand how AD/HD affects your life in
general and your spending behavior in particular. Develop a holiday
spending plan, including in it how much you can spend on gifts, when
sales will be held, and how many shopping days are left. On paydays,
separate the money for gifts from the money for necessary expenses, and
take care not to “borrow” from either pile. If needed, ask a
friend to help you develop your spending plan.
2. Know your salesman.
Merchandisers have expertise in getting people to spend money.
Some adults with AD/HD may find these tactics particularly difficult to
resist. Instead, shop early and with a circular in hand. Better yet,
plan your shopping in advance, and create a detailed list you can stick
to. Walk away from any high-pressured sale you encounter and practice
the polite phrase, “Thank you, but not today,” for any
insistent sales clerks trying to get you to buy something. You might
find that a few “thinking missions” ahead of
time—where debit and credit cards, checkbooks, and cash stay
home—are helpful in deciding purchases and becoming familiar with
store layouts and what merchants have to offer. If more than one store
sells your holiday gifts, note the prices. Then you can add this new
information to your shopping plan.
3. Know the consequences.
Considering potential financial and interpersonal
repercussions can motivate you to spend within limits. Buying something
may make you happy now, but will it add to the joy of the season later?
True peace and joy come from knowing the bills are paid, groceries are
bought, and the family is together, and not necessarily from the newest
toy, gadget, or really kickin’ boots.
You’ve combed the circulars and undertaken a few
thinking missions. Your holiday budget is drawn. Now is the time to
devise the shopping plan and work in its limits. It should also have a
timeline that includes deadlines to keep you on pace and help you avoid
the last-minute spending that usually results in overspending. Also,
take into consideration holiday shopping crowds and whether you’ll
be shopping alone, with a companion, or with a child. Choose stores and
times that best fit your needs.
You have been on the ball and made your travel arrangements ahead of
time, taking advantage of lower fares for advanced booking. You’ve
also taken into account the best time of day or the season for you or
your family members to travel. Now comes the actual journey. Traveling
with AD/HD takes some planning beyond air flights and hotels.
1. Consider your daily needs and how they
can be met while you’re on the road. How much do
you rely on your planner or PDA? What about computers and email? Do you
employ medication to control your AD/HD symptoms? Is there a particular
morning coffee you crave or an evening snack? Take account of all of
these things and plan your general day in advance, packing anything
necessary for your day to run smoothly.
2. Check with your airline, hotel or
travel agent to see if they can assist in meeting your
needs. Ask for aisle seats if you know you’ll need
to stand or walk a short distance for comfort. If you are carrying
medication for AD/HD or other health concerns, check ahead of time for
the proper way to pack them. Make sure you have any needed documentation
or prescriptions with you, and always pack your medication in your
carry-on bag. If you are traveling outside of the country, contact U.S.
Customs for the proper way to carry your medications between
3. When packing your carry-on bag, keep in
mind your level of tolerance for inactivity. Bring
appropriate diversions, including books, laptops, and MP3 players.
For Your Partner
If you are traveling with someone who is affected by AD/HD, you
may need to be proactive in making your travel arrangements and packing.
Many of the previous suggestions can apply, but also step back and offer
guidance rather than doing it for your companion. Casual reminders
rather than demands often go further in creating a pleasant experience.
Plan ahead if you think a particular task or item will be missed, and
help to avoid a problem.
For Your Family
Forethought goes into just about everything for parents,
grandparents, and guardians traveling with children.
1. Just as adults need to check on
medication concerns for themselves, they need to do the same for the
children in their care, along with any necessary documentation of their
children’s disabilities. Talk with the agent
booking your travel, and ask about special accommodations or
recommendations to make the trip more pleasant for all involved.
2. Always make sure medications are
carried in their original containers, you have your medical insurance
cards with you, and documentation or consent forms for
3. When packing carry-on bags, make sure
you have activities for the kids. Coloring and activity
books are great for all ages; older children and teens may need a
variety of books or magazines. Again, MP3 players can be useful, as can
small game systems. The idea is to keep children occupied, especially
when their attention can shift quickly. If necessary, talk with your
child’s doctor for medication and behavior suggestions.
The amount of stimulation brought by holiday events—especially
those that include crowds and seldom-seen family members—can
easily become too much for adults and children affected by AD/HD.
Parents and relatives can help children with AD/HD by understanding that
the frenzy of the holiday season will affect their kids’ daily
lives and by expressing some empathy for what they are going through.
Adults can be equally kind to themselves or their spouses and partners
by allowing “regrouping” time, quiet rooms, or graceful
exits from the party.
Think ahead to social situations that may be difficult. Try to plan in
advance a variety of “cooling off” activities that can help
you or your loved one to gain control during these stressful times and
make the event an enjoyable experience.
For Young Children
• Turn on holiday music, and encourage children to dance to get
their “wiggles” out.
• Provide a special treat that your child needs to sit down to
• Roll up your little one’s sleeves, and let him splash in a
sink with a bar of floating soap or bath toys.
• Use a special CD or book for the holiday season as distractions
when behavior starts to escalate.
• Make “busy time” packets with stickers,
coloring books, writing paper, crayons, pens and stickers.
• Let children pack sack lunches and find different spots in the
house or the neighborhood to have lunch.
• Try art: Bring out the crayons, markers, and colored pencils,
and let your child color in a special coloring book or use butcher paper
to make a mural. Other possibilities include using modeling clay, gluing
cotton balls together or on paper, or making chalk drawings on the
• Record a favorite family TV show or find a special movie to play
when quiet time is needed.
• Plan ahead for how long you would like to remain
at an event.
• Offer to help out in areas that are more suited to your
abilities, whether it’s the excitement of watching the kids or the
calm of helping to do dishes.
• Talk with the host or hostess ahead of time, and ask if there is
a room available if you need a little bit of time away from the
• Be willing to politely intervene when you see your companion
becoming stressed in the situation. You may realize it before he or she
There’s no place like home, or so Dorothy told us. Getting ready
for the holidays at home can test anyone’s patience. Some may find
it difficult to start or stay on task. The first suggestion might be to
offer to co-host holiday events with another family member, perhaps even
at that person’s home. Otherwise, we have some suggestions.
Keeping in mind that CHADD doesn’t endorse products or
websites, many CHADD members have shared their secret with us: FlyLady
FlyLady (so named for her love of fly fishing) is all about “baby
steps” and routines. She explains how to develop a routine to
tackle the holiday season and the rest of the year. You design your own
routine, with her guidance, to fit the needs of your life. Since
routines are a great help to families and single adults dealing with the
effects of AD/HD in their lives, FlyLady’s plans and control
journals work well to help you get ready for the holidays and stay
organized throughout the year.
2. Make a plan.
The bigger the project, the more important the plan.
Scout out your apartment or house, and note what needs the most work,
what needs the least amount of work, and where the best hiding places
for stuff might be (that includes cramming things under the bed, but
only for quickly tidying up during the holidays.)
3. Set the timer.
Once you have a plan, set the kitchen timer for five, ten or
fifteen minutes—and attack the first room. Pick up, stuff away,
clear out of sight. When that timer dings, reset it for the next room,
whether the first is done or not. Repeat the picking up in the second
room. Ding; move on to the third room. Set the timer again, grab
something to drink or nibble and sit down and rest for the fourth round.
Ding, and you’re back to the first room. Do this until each room
is picked up, dusted, and vacuumed and any additional scrubbing is
completed. Repeat this for as much time as you have available. Breaking
it up over the course of a couple days or a week is a good thing,
4. Follow these handy tips.
• Leave a second garbage bag at the bottom of the
pail, under the current one. That way you have one handy in a pinch
without having to hunt for it.
• Keep no more than one extra of household supplies—laundry
soap, paper towels, etc.—on hand. Don’t fill up your
cupboards with more than you need, but make sure you have a back-up at
the ready so you don’t lose your stride.
• Keep all of your cleaning supplies together—a mop bucket
makes a great container to stick everything in so that you can move from
room to room quickly.
5. Since the best ideas often come from
those who “walk the same walk,” here are ideas CHADD members
have sent us.
• Get out of having the celebration at your house. It saves
on the cleaning and the prep time. Consider co-hosting family events at
another relative’s house.
• Limit the number of guests. Make it a small party—a dinner
party of six is more manageable than one of twenty-six. Since this is a
holiday season, make use of the time by having two small dinner parties
with different guests or one intimate party and then making reservations
for the larger group at a favorite restaurant.
• Many grocery stores will prepare the entire holiday meal for you
at a reasonable cost. Order ahead, pick it up, follow the store’s
reheating instructions—and serve it in your own dishes!
Remember, humor and spontaneity go a long way during the stress of
the holiday season. Allow yourself to be creative when faced with a
challenge. Perhaps one of the most creative solutions we’ve heard
came from a CHADD member who wrote that he once had a stack of
newspapers piling up in the dining room for a couple of years. As
company was coming rather soon, he struck upon a plan: He placed a board
across the tops of the piles and draped a holiday tablecloth over it.
The piles were successfully hidden, and the set-up “didn’t
look bad, really.”
He added, with a touch of irony, that his newspaper-holiday table
stayed in place for a few more holidays before finally making its way to
the recycling bundles.
Karen Sampson, MA, writes from Hanover, Maryland.
This article originally appeared in the December 2008 issue of
Attention magazine. Copyright © 2008 by Children and
Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD). All rights
reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission
from CHADD is prohibited.
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