Expert tips to manage ADHD for happier holidays

Spend the day outside and let your child run, play, and explore.

While we all love holidays, if your child has ADHD, it can create extra challenges. Here are some tips to make the season easier to manage.

The holiday season is upon us and that means quality time with your family. Sometimes, however, this time of year can be stressful for parents, especially parents of children who suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Unstructured time and endless freedom are fertile ground for impulsivity, inattention, and hyperactivity in kids.

Dr Rykie Liebenberg, psychiatrist, and convenor of the ADHD Special Interest Group, provides these tips on how best to manage ADHD during the holidays: 

Ditch screen time for the outdoors

Longer days and free time mean it’s tempting for kids to spend more time playing computer games or watching movies. “Excessive screen time – although enjoyable – isn’t beneficial for adults, teenagers, or children with ADHD,” says Dr Liebenberg. “It leads to irritability and restlessness, and can become almost addictive.” Rather spend the day outside and let your child run, play, and explore.

Stick to a schedule

Holidays generally mean the whole family is in the house at once – which is uncommon during the working year – and can lead to frustration and friction among adults and children with ADHD. “It’s common for individuals with ADHD to have mood swings during the holidays, because of the lack of structure, schedule, and stimulation, paired with a crowded house,” explains Dr Liebenberg. Try and keep the family busy out of the house as much as possible.

Routine, routine, routine

Stick to a routine. Holidays are unstructured but try and follow a routine for children with ADHD.

Get active

The benefits of exercise for managing symptoms of ADHD are innumerable – it can help with stress, decrease frustration, and improve focus. Maintaining regular levels of exercise throughout the holidays can help keep impulsivity, hyperactivity, and inattention under control, according to Dr Liebenberg. Go for a walk with your family. Take advantage of the warmer weather by swimming. The kids will love splashing around in the pool.

Limit sugary foods

Don’t abandon healthy eating habits just because the sun is out and things are relaxed. Although there will be festive treats and big celebratory meals, try and balance these with healthier, more balanced options, and limit sugary foods where possible. “With a bit of routine, effort, and planning, ADHD symptoms can be managed effectively and the whole family can enjoy a fuss- and stress-free end-of-year holiday,” concludes Dr Liebenberg.