As much as we love the idea of spending time with family and celebrating what we are grateful for, the bottom line is, holidays can be problematic — for our kids and us. They are full of changing expectations, unfamiliar places, distant relatives, and unordinary food. It becomes extremely taxing on the ADHD brain to shift "gears" to meet the day's ever-changing demands and go with the flow. We often forget how hard it can be.
We'd like to share with you our "recipe" for a Happy Thanksgiving! We have identified four common problem areas, the challenges, and the corresponding solutions to help you create a more enjoyable Thanksgiving for all.
1. The Schedules are Off
The Challenge: Thanksgiving is not like a weekday or a weekend-it's altogether different. The routine changes, the meal times are irregular, we interact with new people, and even the environment switches. So many times, our kiddos don't know what to expect or how to behave.
The Solution: Talk to them about what they can expect ahead of time. Offer reminders throughout the day of what's "next," then offer them opportunities to choose what they would like to do. If you are traveling to someone else's home, let them know who will be there and pack things they can use to entertain themselves or feel more comfortable. If possible, speak with the host ahead of time about a place your child can go to if things become overstimulating or chaotic.
If you are staying in your own home, be sure to cover the same steps.
Lastly, make a plan to "hold off" for the big meal by agreeing on small snacks throughout the day. This keeps them from getting "hangry" but still have some appetite left for the big dinner you've worked so hard to prepare.
2. The Food is Different
The Challenge: Thanksgiving food is rare. We don't typically cook green bean casserole or sweet potato pie much during the year. Some kids are excited to try new tastes and textures, and others are not. Unfortunately, I fell into the 'NOT" category when I was a kid, which probably drove my parents crazy.
The Solution: Cook something your kids are familiar with and like to eat. Inviting your kids to choose a part of the menu makes it fun and helps them feel included. We make each of our kids their favorite holiday food. One loves the Yorkshire pudding (known as a popover in America), the other loves the stuffing and the gravy. It helps them be excited to join us at the table, knowing there will be something for them to eat.
3. The Meal takes Too Long
The Challenge: Thanksgiving is a multi-course experience that takes “forever” to get through. Our kiddos(teens included) may be able to "keep it together" for a little while, but not for the entire meal. Their ADD brains get bored, their bodies begin to "wiggle," and their minds wander. They can no longer focus, let alone carry on a conversation with Aunt Sally whom they haven't seen in a year—-you get the picture! Our kids have a hard time sitting still, making eye contact, and carrying a conversation. All of these things appear as "bad manners" to the untrained eye.
The Solution: Each child has their limit. Discuss together what is realistic for them. Review basic table manners, practice a few conversation starters, role-play with them, and give them the words to "excuse" themselves from the table.
4. Parents are Busy
The Challenge: Whether we are hosting or celebrating somewhere else, we get BUSY—preparing the meal, getting the house ready, entertaining our guests. And if we're honest, we can become so preoccupied; it's hard to be available for our kids and think about their needs.
The Solution: Slow down and ask for help. Remember to breathe and remind yourself of what's most important. So far, you've made plans for the day, talked through expectations, and have agreed to check in. The last step is to invite friends and family to help you during "go" time. You know those last few minutes before everyone sits down to eat? You're rushing to get all the ingredients out of the oven, off the stove, onto the right platters, and somehow that's when the kiddos have a question, need attention, or simply crave some extra TLC. Has that ever happened to you? It never seemed to fail in our house. So, be prepared, teach the kids about "go" time, and enlist the help of others to lighten your load.
We hope you will try our "recipe" this year. It has led to smoother transitions, less chaos, and more fun.
After all, isn't it easier to spend time with family and friends, appreciating all the good in our life when we can enjoy it?
We are grateful for you and so happy you are part of our community.
We wish you a Wonderful Thanksgiving!
Coco and Vicky