How Can You Manage Holiday Gift-Giving?

 ADHD Weekly 2017-12-07

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In happens every December, and can even begin in November. You go shopping for the holidays. Online. In stores. In malls. Then your credit card bill arrives in January. Oh. My. Gosh. Meantime, some recipients of your “generosity” are left with stuff. Things they may not need or want, too many things. Some may even feel embarrassed by the extremes of your giving.  

How and why does this happen?

There was actually a research study that linked compulsive buying with ADHD symptoms. It found the greatest difference between compulsive buyers and controls to be associated with Inattentiveness (shifting activity, not sustaining attention), Impulsivity (difficulty waiting, acting before thinking), and Hyperactivity (fidgety), in descending order. Executive Function was not measured in this study.

In operational terms, your impulsivity makes you buy before thinking through the implications for your budget, as well as for your recipient. Your inattention prevents you from focusing, instead distracting you to new and novel things (a random walk through a mall or past online clickbait yields impulse buying). You may have challenges in social skills that both drive you to wanting to please, yet make it difficult to understand what will actually please people. You may have impaired executive function, which makes it difficult for you to organize and execute a measured plan for gift giving.

So what can you do?

There are many tips and suggestions online from many sources. Most focus on making and sticking to a plan, or on restricting your practice (such as sticking to cash, staying away from online sites). Although those are great ideas if you can do them, those types of ideas are challenged by ADHD symptoms.  We invite you to try these ideas for alternative gift-giving, which leverage the strengths of your ADHD “mirror traits:"

  • Use your creativity. A gift of “you” is more valuable to your loved ones than anything you can buy!
  • Write a poem or verse for your friend, family member or partner. Decorate it with hand-drawn or cut-out images that reflect the idea or mood of your writing. Have it framed. 
  • If you like to do photography, enlarge a shot that may be meaningful to one of your loved ones. Sign it and frame it. 
  • Make a simple (no-big-deal, from old T-shirts or scrap fabric) hand puppet for one of your children. 
  • Connect with people. The memory will last longer than a purchased gift.
  • Write an attractive invitation to do something specific with a friend or loved one. Lunch at a favorite spot, a walk in a favorite park, outing at a flower show, etc.
  • Write a certificate to do something (like an IOU) for a loved one. Wash the family car, style your friend’s hair, babysit for a friend so she can have some “down time”…
  • Help your child with ADHD. Positive parenting helps him and you!
  • Remember that hand puppet? Make one for yourself, too, and write an “IOU” to develop a story with him and perform it as a play with him and his puppet.
  • Write an attractive “gift certificate” to take your child for an outing all by himself. The zoo, children’s museum, camping…special bonding time.
  • Write a “gift certificate” to play a game with your child.
  • Use your thoughtful imagination.
  • Picture your friend or loved one in their environment, in their home, in their life. Develop an understanding of what they really love, what they really need or want. You’ve seen that their home is so crammed with “stuff” that they couldn’t possibly have room for more, or that they like to live a minimalist existence so more stuff wouldn’t conform to their lifestyle. You’ve heard her talk about a favorite artist, author, color, style or hobby.  
  • Use that understanding to determine what you might give her – something that isn’t impulsive, but simply shows that you “get” her. It could be something you make or an activity you promise (see above). Be a tough critic; don’t jump at the first thing you see online or in a store. Only the right thing for your friend or loved one will do.

How will you manage gift-giving this holiday season?

If you have ADHD, your symptoms may cause you to go overboard in shopping sprees, leaving you with a regrettably high credit card balance in January. How can you avoid this, yet still honor your friends and loved ones?