Q&A: How Can I Simplify Gift-Giving?

 ADHD Weekly, December 13, 2018

Question: In our extended family, we celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah. This year Hanukkah came at the beginning of December and Christmas at the end of the month—which means a lot of presents for our children and their cousins all month long!

We’d like to simplify our holidays, partly because we see our children becoming overwhelmed by all the toys and gifts. With their symptoms of impulsivity and hyperactivity, it’s no longer a special time—just a sudden commotion that ends with no one, children or adults, feeling very festive. How can we cut back on gift-giving and still make this a special time?

Answer: Feeling burned out from gift-giving is not how anyone wants to spend the holiday season. Many families, just like yours, are looking at how they can scale back or end gift-giving and instead create meaningful holiday traditions for their children. Traditions that take into account the needs of children and adults with ADHD who are easily overwhelmed or overstimulated during events–or who struggle with impulsivity and distractibility–are important for everyone to have a joyous time.

Family and friends are the most important part of any celebration. By shifting the focus from gift-giving to spending valuable time together, you can regain some of the magic of the holidays. Things to decide, as parents or an extended family:

  • Will we limit the number of gifts given?
  • How many gifts? Will they be store-bought or homemade?
  • What is the budget for gifts? How can we encourage creativity within that budget?

Many families are adopting the idea of three gifts per person:

  • Something to wear
  • Something to read
  • Something for fun

In some families, children are told that Santa Claus will bring them one gift—something they have set their heart set on. All other gifts are from their parents and family members.

Some families decide the flurry of gift-giving isn’t their best option and look for other ways to make the season bright. Ideas for holidays without gifts include:

  • Donate gifts or dinner for another family that is struggling financially
  • Help children pick out donations for children’s toy programs or hospitals
  • Volunteer at a community kitchen to serve meals
  • Plan family vacations or day trips during the holiday season
  • Share a seasonal picnic at a local park, or a sledding trip
  • Give gift cards for experiences, such as passes to the zoo or lessons for a favorite activity
  • Attend traditional activities, such as decorating Christmas trees or lighting the Menorah together, complete with festive singing
  • Bake family treats to share
    With older children, visit family members or local care facilities to play board games
  • Team up with other families for a holiday scavenger hunt followed by a winter party
  • Plan special quiet nights with good books or holiday-themed movies for just you and your children

The most important thing is always to find and do what is best for your family. The holidays are a time for celebration, and you and your family do not have to participate in any activity that will bring you stress or unhappiness to dampen your family’s celebrations. When you scale back either gifts or activities, you create more room to enjoy being together as a family.

Still thinking about gift-giving?

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