Do you set unrealistic expectations for yourself and those around you?

Clinical counselor Shellie Frost cautions us to “stop using the TV version of holiday events as a model.  It creates self-induced sabotage if you can’t recreate the image.” She also advocates controlling your schedule by being proactive. Make a schedule and limit yourself and family to one event per day versus trying to hit multiple parties and family gatherings. The key is creating your own holiday tradition, one that fits the unique needs of your family, not the sitcom family on the screen!

Keep the Peace at Holiday Gatherings

Ho…Ho…Ho holiday events are fraught with hunger, fatigue, and overstimulation for children with ADHD. You want your child to experience all the fun and excitement of family gatherings and parties, yet you dread the reality of the holiday chaos. Planning for the expected and unexpected is a gift that the whole family will appreciate.


  1. Use a calendar to count down days until the event.
  2. Create a visual and/or social story of the event, then practice! (Include details such as picture taking, how/when gifts will be opened, and meal time.)
  3. Create a grab bag or box of sensory activities/toys.
  4. Picky eater? Pack a lunch box of favorite foods/snacks.
  5. Avoid over-scheduling – 1 or 2 activities per day


  1. Plan calming breaks…use sensory activities grab bag!
  2. Think exercise – A brisk walk before dinner and/or hard impact breaks
  3. Use a timer and schedule – ‘We open presents in 30 minutes.’
  4. Use prepared food to replace the meal if need be. Holiday dinners are about family, not cuisine choice!
  5. Follow gift opening routine and try to find the least hectic area in the room.

You’ve planned and practiced, so now it’s time to sit back and enjoy your family, the festivities, and some time-honored holiday carols!

I’m dreaming of a stress-free holiday,

Just one where chaos is at bay,

Where the treetop glistens,

The children listen,

 & play peacefully throughout the day!


For additional hints: