Tis the Season: ADHD Style

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Tips for a happier, less stressful holiday season.December 2017

I used to love shopping and spent days searching for just the “right” gifts.  My holiday plans were exciting but very time-consuming and impossible to complete on time. I constantly overestimated my ability to cope with the additional stress of this time of year. Also, the post-Christmas “let-down” lasted through January and half of February. I eventually realized that extreme self-care was a necessary part of my treatment for ADHD and Bipolar Disorder. I now limit my activities to those that I value the most. Maybe simpler preparation and holiday plans can increase your holiday pleasure as well

I love my ornament collection, so I do put up a tree.  But I no longer shop or make gifts for most of my family and friends. Instead, I choose gifts of service or plan activities for just a few people. As a bonus, I can schedule them for a later date when I have more energy and time. I also continue to bake my favorite cookies and candy for holiday get-togethers. I bring to-go containers so my “goodies” do double duty as small gifts. (and I can’t gorge on them later!)

For many of us, adult and child, some of our traditional preparations may be too involved to handle gracefully.  This year you might want to explore creating your own traditions that better meet your family’s values, personal abilities and everyone’s need to feel safe and calm. Be aware that children with ADHD need regular routines and often struggle with transitions. Schedule your activities and allow plenty of quiet time.  Prepare for changes in routine and plan ahead for both the excitement of the season and downtime during school vacation. Holiday activities also bring additional social challenges for both you and your child. Come up with short explanations for the uninformed about why and how you and/or your child are best helped when problems arrive.  Your goals are comfortable stress levels for all and less friction at parties or family get-togethers.

My Pinterest Board, Holidays and Other Celebrations, covers many of the situations you’re likely to face.


The holidays are a time for giving, gratitude and granting forgiveness. If you’d like to encourage charitable giving as a practice for you or your family, print out the 30-day Kindness Calendar from Action for Happiness for some great ideas on ways to contribute.  find  photo kindness-calendar


Being thankful is also a great tradition that begins with Thanksgiving and culminates with giving thanks for holiday gifts. (Some of you may even still write Thank You notes!) But, did you know that making gratitude part of your daily routine is a wonderful way to start any day? Being positive helps banish negative thinking and the complaining that can be so damaging to our happiness. ADHD and the Practice of Gratitude by Kari Miller Ph.D. offers some ideas on how to get started.  She includes these 5 Ways to Develop a Gratitude Habit.

  • Keep a gratitude journal.
  • Make a gratitude collage.
  • Practice gratitude with your family or make it part of your nighttime routine.
  • Make a game of finding the hidden blessing in a challenging situation.
  • When you feel like complaining, make a gratitude list instead.


If none of these suggestions fit your style, 3 Ways to be Grateful (That Don’t Involve Gratitude Lists)  from Jessica McCabe of How to ADHD has a 4-minute video of other ways to express your feelings.

Gratitude is also one of the 9 Ways to Get Organized with Minimal Effort By Donna Smallin Kuper.   She writes, “Be grateful for all you have – It’s more than enough. Remember that the most important things in life are not things.” Donna’s other advice includes:

  • Start somewhere. Anywhere.
  • Declutter in short bursts.
  • And let go of perfect!

Forgiving yourself and others can also help bring peace to your life and not just for the holidays. Practice letting go of the pain of being “different.” Forgive yourself any perceived ‘failings” you’ve experienced because of ADHD. Also, forgiving those who have denigrated or shamed us helps us better control our emotions. Remember that attaining this peace is a work in progress. As Sara Paddison says in Quotes for Forgiveness (Link works) by Stephanie A. Sarkis, Ph.D. for Psychology Today,

“Sincere forgiveness isn’t colored with expectations that the other person apologize or change. Don’t worry whether or not they finally understand you. Love them and release them.”

“Life feeds back truth to people in its own way and time – just like it does for you and me.”


When it comes to understanding the complexity of ADHD, we must also forgive the experts who don’t yet have all the information we’ve been hoping for. But our knowledge is expanding each year. We’re getting a whole new view of how the ADHD brain works and help in discovering the best treatments. 6 Things You Didn’t Know About the ADHD Brain by William Dodson, M.D. and Thomas Brown, Ph.D., in ADDitude Magazine is A MUST READ article.  It contains new research on ADHD that helps details how the ADHD brain works and why the Executive Functions are affected. Furthermore, they explain the part of the brain that stimulants impact and that we now know some individuals need less medication than the minimum available dosages, while many others require amounts greater than the maximum dosage allowed by the FDA.


A better understanding of ADHD can change the way we react to people with ADHD. It helps us pause, show empathy, and problem solve together.  Danya Abram’s video on Facebook, Behavior is Always Communication from Lemon Lime Adventures is great for parents and teachers.  As she says, “It’s easy to look at these behaviors as just what we see. It’s easy to make assumptions about why our children are acting out or doing inexplicable things.” Like an iceberg, what you see on the surface is 7-times smaller than what lurks beneath. “I challenge you to look for the other 85%. Look deeper.”

If you’d like something for your child to do over their vacation, Danya has an awesome workbook for just $14, The Super Kids Activity Guide to Conquering Every Day: Awesome Games and Crafts to Master Your Moods, Boost Focus, Hack Mealtimes and Help Grownups Understand Why You Do the Things You Do (lINK WORKS)

Hope you find some “treasures” in this month’s newsletter. Enjoy the holidays and I’ll see you next year!

Joan Jager

ADD freeSources.net

Title: (Image courtesy of Simon Howden/FreeDigitalPhoto.net) Modified on Canva www.canva.com

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