Q: Of my four children, my 11½-year-old son and 6-year-old-daughter have ADHD. I suspect my 3 ½-year-old boy falls into that category as well.
I am looking for advise/solutions/support to deal with Shabbos and holidays. These times, which “should be” joyous and festive, are most often nightmarish, as are days off and vacations from school. With summer just around the corner, I need help.
Are you able to offer any suggestion, or point me in the right direction?
A: While days off from school can be daunting for all mothers with young children, for parents of children with ADHD, these days can be thoroughly frightening. These children have trouble sitting still, focusing on one thing at one time, and attending to details. While their attention seems unfocused, it is multi-focused. That means their minds take in multiple stimuli at once, making it hard to engage in one activity for long periods of time. Thus, keeping them entertained can often feel like an exercise in frustration.
So, what are some solutions to keeping your children happy and yourself sane?
Stick to routine. All children, especially those with ADHD, crave routine. Set a morning routine in which the children wake at the same time, brush their teeth, eat breakfast, and pack up their book bag at the same time. Even though we might wish to vary the routine and let the kids hang out in their pajamas for an extra hour when they do not have school, this can completely throw off the schedule. Therefore, keep the morning routine the same and instead of getting into the car for school, have another organized activity (either inside or outside of the home).
Keep a calendar. For Shabbos this is not necessary, but for holidays (including Chol Hamoed), keep a calendar in sight so that your children can know what is on “schedule.” Knowing that they will go to the zoo on Thursday and bake challah on Friday will help keep them focused.
Have them create a collage of their preferred activities. On this collage, they can paste pictures of books they like to read, art supplies, their bike, friends they enjoy visiting, and other favorite activities. Then, when they start to complain that they are bored (or you notice their behavior deteriorating), tell them to go to the collage and pick out an appropriate activity for that day. They can also update the collage as their interests expand and change.
Create a “chores checklists.” Often, children with ADHD just want to be engaged – even helping clean and tidy the house will keep the house happier and quieter. If you develop a list of things that can be done around the house and give small rewards for completing those tasks, your children will stay out of your hair and your house might also be more organized. This one sounds like it will never work – but believe me – I’ve seen it happen!
Parenting a child with ADHD can be a trying experience for a mother – especially when there is limitless free time to fill. However, with a bit of organization and planning – family life can be manageable – and maybe even fun!