How to have an awesome holiday with your ADHD-diagnosed child: Travel tips for families
Watermelon dripping from sticky hands, family picnics, warm, long days and trying to find the perfect spot on the beach – whatever your favourite childhood memories are, many of them would’ve taken place over the festive season. As parents, we are now the co-creators of our children’s childhood memories and we want to make the summer school holidays as fun and enjoyable as possible.
For those fortunate enough to get a change of air, travelling with kids is no walk in the park. But for parents with ADHD-diagnosed children and teens, the thought of travelling with them is enough to bring on anxiety symptoms. But it does not have to be that way. With our practical travel tips, you can have a holiday that you don’t need to recover from:
Engage the kids in your travelling plans. If you’re travelling on a certain day, mark it off on a calendar. Let them help pack the bags. You can also print out your travel calendar, so they know what to anticipate, and when.
Ensure that you have all the medication you need with you, as well as copies of your prescriptions on hand, especially if you’re travelling overseas.
Hitting the road? Decide whether to drive at night or during the day, depending on what works best for your family. Some families with ADHD- diagnosed children prefer to drive at night so there’s less time spent in the car. If you are doing most of your travelling by day, plan multiple stops where your child can stretch and expend energy. This is especially important if your child is hyperactive. On South Africa’s national roads, the petrol station stops have lovely outdoor play areas for kids. Map them out beforehand and set your driving schedule accordingly.
If you’re travelling long distance, put together an activity travel kit for your child to keep them occupied. Depending on your child’s age, this can include: road trip games, fidget toys, puzzles, colouring books, reading books, electronics (with preloaded games and movies), a writing journal and of course, some snacks.
Manage your child’s expectations. If your road trip is four hours long, or if you’re going to be at the airport for two hours before the plane leaves, tell them. ADHD-diagnosed kids may have a poor sense of time, so explain it in terms that they can understand, e.g. “We’ll be waiting here for as long as it takes to watch a movie.” Give them as much details as possible–where they will be sleeping or what their food options are. You can also review the next day’s plans the evening before.
When drawing up your day’s schedule, keep in mind your child’s limits and how long they can maintain focus. This is especially important when visiting places or people’s homes.Schedule one ‘event’ per day, along with quiet time, when your child can recharge during the day. Also, have a backup plan in case that event doesn’t pan out. Advanced warning helps ADHD-diagnosed children to subdue their reactions when things don’t go as planned. Don’t forget to give transition warnings if you’re going from one activity to the next.
When visiting or staying over with relatives unfamiliar to your child, explain to them what the typical ADHD behaviours are should any issues arise during your visit. Explain the host’s ground rules to your children.
Allow for flexibility in the schedule. If your kids want to spend another hour doing an activity or there’s a place or another event that draws their interest, let your schedule be flexible enough to accommodate it.
Factor in a few buffer days where your family can readjust to the daily routine once you return home.
Be present. The holidays are the perfect time to start a mindfulness practise, if you don’t have one already. Mindfulness is about being open, accepting, and present in the moment.It includes being aware of your habits, thoughts and emotions, and enables you to better control your emotional reactions – a superpower when dealing with an ADHD child! For parents of an ADHD-diagnosed child, mindfulness could mean slowing things down, focusing on “the now,” or letting go of the idea that things need to be perfect.
How to get started:
Choose a daily interaction with your child – brushing their teeth, bedtime stories, or having an ice-cream together.
Set an intention to be fully present and conscious with your child for that interaction.
During the interaction, bring your awareness to your child and immerse yourself in the activity with them. When your mind starts to wander or you’re tempted to check your phone, bring yourself back to the present.
Parenting an ADHD child is stressful, and we need to remember that a family holiday is a special time to connect with our children and bond as a family. And, to make beautiful memories in the process.
Stay safe over the festive season!