Truly Happy Holidays (Even with ADD/ADHD) – Part 2

You will recall that last week’s article focused on some of the reasons why the holiday period can sometimes be very frustrating for people dealing with ADD/ADHD (either in themselves or their children). It obviously goes without saying that most people would prefer not to have their experience of what is supposed to be one of the happiest times of the year ‘challenged’ in this way. With this week’s article I would therefore like to move beyond simply describing the problem towards pointing out some ways in which it can be effectively addressed. So here, without further ado, are the top ways of conquering ADD/ADHD throughout the holidays:

Provide a food ‘safe haven’ at home: Christmastime is often seen as a time of excess as we move from one party and event (with food at the center) to the other. This is made worse, from the perspective of a person dealing with ADD/ADHD) by the fact that many of the foods served at these events are almost guaranteed to aggravate the condition. One response would be to make sure that you avoid all Christmas parties and similar ‘end of year’ events but this is obviously not a very realistic, or even desirable, goal. I would therefore like to suggest that you make an extra effort to ensure that your breakfast nook and/or dining room table at home serve as a ‘safe haven’ from all the food excess swirling around you. Your efforts in this regard will probably not completely offset wrong food choices arising from holiday excess but it will at least act as something of a counterweight.

Make sure that there are alternatives available: If you will be doing a lot of entertaining at home it would be a great idea to take a long hard look at your menus for the festivities. Do you plan to serve lots of food that are high in calories and/or score very high on the GI scale? If so, I strongly recommend that you make sure that there are alternatives available so that those dealing with ADD/ADHD will not be forced to make choices that can harm their chances of having truly happy holidays. Providing healthier alternatives will obviously lead to more work but the payoffs could more than make up for the extra effort that will be required.

Forewarned is forearmed: If you are dealing with ADD/ADHD yourself you are probably well aware of the way in which the holidays can have a negative effect on people with the condition; especially since you probably experienced some of these effects on a first hand basis. But what about kids who see the holiday season only in terms of fun and goodies!? If the child in question has ADD/ADHD it might be a great idea to have a bit of an age appropriate chat beforehand (without turning into the Grinch of course!). Focus on why the holidays can become rather unpleasant if certain ground rules are not adhered to. Some kids may indeed regard you as the Grinch reincarnate, but who knows, maybe some of your parental advice will hit the mark!

Have a few quiet words with ‘key players’: Christmas is the time of the year when a variety of significant people in the lives of your children feel that they are entitled to do a little (or a lot!) of spoiling. This is, of course, a natural (some would say noble!) impulse but as the parent of a child with ADD/ADHD you will need to make sure that it gets channeled in the right directions. Having a few quiet words with the people wanting to do the spoiling (read ‘grandparents’ in most cases!) to remind them that does not necessarily have to equate with lots of sugar, chemicals, colorants and artificial flavors. You will obviously have to be careful in how you approach this conversation since you most probably a) do not want to hurt the feelings of the ‘spoilees’ and b) certainly do not want to label your kids in their eyes. It is, however, in many cases a conversation that will have to take place if you value a peaceful family-building Christmas.

What all of these tips have in common is that they remind us that when it comes to ADD/ADHD and nutrition it is never a good idea to simply ‘go with the flow’. As I have pointed out repeatedly: Making informed and proactive choices is half the game in dealing with the condition. This is especially true during the holidays when we are almost actively encouraged to go the other way. This problem extends beyond the area of nutrition, the next article will focus on some general (non-nutrition related) tips for how to survive and thrive through the holidays with ADD/ADHD.