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Holiday Projects and the ADHD Family: Emphasize Fun, Fast Activities to Reduce Frustration

For the ADHD parent who struggles on a daily basis to raise an ADHD child, the idea of adding parent-child holiday crafts or other seasonal projects to the mix can seem overwhelming. But parent-child activities during the holidays are the stuff of precious memories. The shared quiet time also can be especially beneficial for those family members whose brains are “wired” differently. The key: Plan activities carefully, and modify them to suit the special needs of both parent and child.

Plan Projects of Mutual Interest

The hallmark characteristics of Attention Deficit /Hyperactivity Disorder include high levels of hyperactivity, distractibility and impulsiveness. All these traits can make it hard for a parent and child to settle down and participate in an organized holiday activity, but it definitely can be done.

Since people with ADHD tend to focus much better when interested in an activity, the ADHD parent should suggest projects that will be of mutual interest to both parent and child, rather than interesting only to the child. That way, the parent will be more easily able to attend to the activity and have fun with the child. For example, if a ADHD mother enjoys cooking and hiking and the child enjoys crafts and cooking, it’s a good idea for the mother and child to choose a cooking activity, and let the child do crafts with another family member.

Make Activity ADHD Friendly

Once the type of activity is chosen, the parent can evaluate the project with a critical eye, deciding whether any modifications are needed to reduce the potential for frustration or leaving the project half-completed. Will putting together a giant gingerbread house really be fun if it takes hours of assembly and painstaking applications of candy? Perhaps it would be wiser to buy a pre-assembled house – widely available in stores this year – and then focus on the fun of decorating. Making holiday cards for teachers can take a lot of time; the parent and child can plan to make only a handful, or use some shortcuts, such as rubber stamps, to complete the design.

Proceed, Step By Step

Adults who have ADHD often are bursting with creative ideas but have trouble completing an activity. To avoid making plans for an activity but not following through, the parent can use a technique that is often suggested for people with ADHD known as “chunking,” or the breaking an activity into smaller steps. To do this with a holiday project, the parent can make a list of needed supplies, and set a date for shopping and also for the activity. Then the parent goes to the store, with list in hand.

Reduce Distractions

When it’s time for the activity (craft, baking project, etc.) the parent should reduce distractions in the environment. If someone else in the family can answer a ringing phone during the project, so much the better. The work area should be cleared of extraneous articles. Materials for the activity should be set out before any work is done, to avoid a frantic search for a missing item.

With some advance planning, a parent and child who both have ADHD can have some special time together creating holiday memories with projects that are fun, fast and frustration free!