Managing ADHD at Family Gatherings

by Stephanie Camins, LPC

The holidays with your ADHD child or teen can be stressful. From the parties to the treats, to the lack of structure, managing ADHD at family gatherings can make holiday events challenging. Often, relatives don’t understand what ADHD is and how it impacts kids. You may feel judged or questioned by those who don’t get it. You field questions such as:

“Why can’t they sit still?”
“How come they never stop talking?”
“Why aren’t you disciplining them?”

Or do you just feel the unspoken disapproval? Helping your family understand ADHD will defuse conflict and stress. The holidays are busy and at times chaotic. The normal structure of our routines is thrown out the window. This causes anxiety and stress for kids and parents. Try these tips to help you manage ADHD at family gatherings in a proactive and positive way.

  1. Explain the facts of ADHD
  2. Model positive redirections that work for your kiddo in front of others
  3. Get support from relatives that get it
  4. Make plans for difficult situations such as formal sit-down dinners or very long days
  5. Don’t take it personally, remember, you know your child best.
  6. Be your child’s advocate

You may also find it helpful to develop a strategy ahead of time to cope with the stress this creates for you as a parent.

  1. Focus on what you can control
  2. Practice self-soothing techniques such as breathing exercises and mindfulness
  3. Go for a walk
  4. Take some space in another room
  5. Decide on a hand signal you or your spouse can use if you need a break or help in a situation
  6. Identify a family ally
  7. Have a time limit set for the gathering
  8. Plan an exit strategy

Planning ahead will help you enjoy the holidays with all the extras they come with. Remember to prep your child for the activity, give them advance notice on the schedule and bring with you any tools that help them self-soothe. You can use the same strategies listed above for your kid as well. Happy Holidays!

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