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Reducing the Hyper Part of the Holidays. 535 HolidayTree The holidays often become more stressful than intended. If you are looking forward to the hectic holidays with both joy and dread there is still hope. Some of the stress and dread can be removed by planning ahead. For adults as well as children of all ages days are filled with events, on top of normal schedules. The result is often stress and exhaustion even before the turkey and the pumpkin pie.

Bruce A. Brunger, an author of a book about ADHD in young children, says that the key is in re-directing ADHD children and creating secure routines for them to enjoy the hectic holidays. For young children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (or A.D.H.D.), the energy of holiday season is magnified causing the child to become a disruptive, distracted, over-stimulated and unhappy. The author offers parents of young ADHD children the following tips to make the "hyper holidays" a little less stressful. His advice applies to all of us who are seeking more pleasant days with our children and less stress with the family.

1. Build-in routines. ADHD kids do not handle sudden change very well. So, in the days leading up to the holiday, establish routines to keep them on track. Get them to bed at the same time each night. Go shopping on the same time each day. Set aside several scheduled "preparation times" with the child to decorate, make cookies and participate in other appropriate holiday activities.

2. Create traditions. Traditions are just another form of routine. For young children with ADHD, traditions serve as stable reference points in the midst of changes that occur during the holidays. Aside from the usual traditions normally associated with the Holiday Season, create your own family traditions: play games each night before bedtime, write and read together a special family story, create a "Countdown" calendar or schedule of holiday-appropriate activities, etc.

3. Practice for new experiences. Young kids with ADHD have trouble knowing how to behave in certain situations, and are often impulsive and act out during holidays. So, in the days leading up to the holiday, role-play with your ADHD child, teaching him/her proper behavior before the guests arrive, or before going to someone's home to celebrate the holiday.

4. Be consistent. It is vitally important that parents never make exceptions to any schedules or rules. Change the expected schedule or rule once, and this confuses the ADHD child. ADHD kids respond best to predictable, dependable routines. Don't stir the pot by changing things at the last minute.

5. Limit sweets. Some children with ADHD seem to become "wound-up" and more hyperactive after eating candy. Of course, it is next to impossible to eliminate sweets entirely during the Holiday Season. Wherever possible, try to limit or ration sweets.  Try to stretch out the candy distribution over several days, rather than all at once on a single day.

6. Provide activities during travel time. If you travel to relatives for the Holidays, prepare a kit of coloring books, puzzles, reading books, books on audiotape, and other activities to keep the young ADHD child occupied while you travel. It is always best to over-prepare and have a number of materials ready, since some ADHD children bore quickly and will want to move on to the next activity.

7. Spread gift-giving over several days.
If any gifts are given during the Holiday, remember that showering an ADHD child with a number of gifts all at once may over-stimulate him, and result in hyperactive or impulsive behavior. Instead of giving all the gifts at a single time, try spreading out the giving of presents over several days, or
at several times during the day. Remember that ADHD kids become bored easily; so having gifts distributed over a period of time, rather than all at once, will keep them occupied longer.

8. Have realistic expectations.
Be flexible, you might have some fun and innovative activities scheduled for your ADHD child, but not everything will happen "as planned." Not everyone's Holiday is a "picture perfect" one, especially with young ADHD children. So, save yourself all the stress, and "go with the flow."

9. Involve your child in holiday themed projects. ADHD kids have boundless energy, especially with all the excitement of a holiday. So, re-direct your child's energy toward constructive projects. Make cookies with your child and give them to friends and family. Buy a special toy together and give it to charity. Enlist the child's help in cooking or putting up decorations. Write letters or cards together to friends or loved ones. Involve the child in several holiday-themed arts and crafts projects. Have the child make a "Countdown Calendar" to mark off the days leading up to the holiday.

10. Schedule quiet time.
 With all the activity leading up to the holiday, set routine times each day when you will snuggle up with the child in a blanket and have a special snack and holiday story reading times (there are lots of books in your local library on various holidays, like Christmas, Hanukah, Thanksgiving, Easter/Passover, etc.). Turn on some mellow music and take a break with your ADHD child to get away from the daily grind for a few minutes each day. Quiet moments together are an effective way to help your ADHD child "wind-down."

Mr. Brunger is the author of two books, a parent/teacher guide, ADHD in the Young Child: Driven to Re-Direction and an illustrated children's good behavior workbook, The Buzz & Pixie Activity Coloring Book, both published by Specialty Press, Inc. The books are available in bookstores, and are also available for purchase on the Internet.

Bruce A. Brunger, M.B.A., is a "concerned-parent-turned-author/expert" who is the father of three young children, one of whom has ADHD. Specialty Press, Inc. is the major publisher of books for parents, educators, health-care professionals and children to assist people affected by developmental disorders, including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and related disorders. (

Information posted by staff and images by Nancy Nelson-Duac. Copyright updated 2016. 






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