Truly Happy Holidays (Even with ADD/ADHD)

Well here we are again! Rapidly approaching the end of another year, with all the attendant festivities. You would have to be a real Scrooge if you are not at least a little bit excited about the tinsel, the carols and the decked out windows. If, however, you are the parent of a child with ADD/ADHD (or perhaps dealing with the condition yourself) you will quite likely also be approaching the holidays with a distinct feeling of dread. Why? Simply because you realize that the holiday period can often be filled with many of the things that are guaranteed to aggravate the condition. This is a sad place to be in, especially as it is not uncommon for some parents with ADD kids to wish that the whole thing can simply be over with: Which is obviously the exact opposite of what most of us would regard as the ideal emotions associated with Christmas.

So can it be different this year? It certainly can! This will, however, only be the case if you approach the holidays in a proactive ‘ADD/ADHD’ busting way. Being aware of the possible dangers and having a strategy in place to counteract them. It is, therefore, a good idea to remind ourselves once again about the exact nature of the factors that are guaranteed to negatively influence the behavior of a child with ADD/ADHD. I will now proceed to list some of them; together with a brief reminder of where/how you are likely to encounter them during the holiday period.

Foods that score high on the Glycemic Index (GI): You may well be aware that I have written extensively about the benefits of a Low-GI diet in combatting the effects of ADD/ADHD. There are few times of the year when it is as difficult to adhere to this kind of diet. We are constantly confronted by sugary and highly processed ‘party foods’. These foods are virtually guaranteed to launch you on the proverbial ‘blood sugar roller coaster’. With this will come feelings of euphoria and hyperactivity followed by extreme moodiness and tiredness. Certainly not the ideal way to spend what is supposed be one of the happiest times of the year.

Foods high in additives, flavorants and other chemicals: Even parents who normally exercise strict control over the diets of their children struggle to maintain vigilance during the holiday period. The temptation to adopt a ‘It’s Christmas after all’ attitude and to turn a blind eye is just too great. This means that it is quite likely that your kids will put things in their mouths that you would never normally allow including foods containing the kinds of chemicals that will almost certainly make hyperactivity, lack of focus, mood swings and other hallmarks of the conditions worse.

Lack of sleep: There can be no question that lack of sleep is one of the most serious contributors towards aggravated ADD/ADHD (it can even mimic classical ‘symptoms’ in children who do not actually have the condition). Parties, family gatherings, light night trips to enjoy Christmas lights all contribute to shrinking sleep times during this time of the year. Denying kids the chance to stay up late every now and then during such a magical time would perhaps be especially ‘Scrooge like’, so the lack of sleep will have to be managed in the best way possible.

Lack of physical activity: As a general rule of thumb we could say that the more sedentary a person is, the more serious the presentation of ADD/ADHD symptoms will be. This is because the body does not get the chance to ‘burn off’ some of the extra sugars etc. that are present in the system. In many households the holidays can be described as ‘especially sedentary’. The cold weather outside combines with an abundance of television and video gaming to guarantee this.

The special pitfalls of the holidays are obviously well known to those who are keeping an eye on their weight. The fact that most people eat lots of extra calories in the form of highly processed and chemically ‘enhanced’ foods combined with temporary changes in lifestyle makes this a perilous time. I firmly believe that this problem is compounded in the case of those dealing with ADD/ADHD. Their brains are already so highly sensitive to even the slightest changes in the environment that the veritable deluge of undesirable elements that assail them during the holidays could very easily tip them over the edge of serious consequences. If you have already spent a few holiday periods with kids with ADD/ADHD, this will obviously not be news to you. The elements listed above should therefore be viewed as some of the greatest challenges that you face if you want to spend a peaceful and fulfilling Christmas. Please check back again next week when I will being to discuss exactly how some of these challenges can be overcome.