• Managing Thanksgiving Dinner with ADHD

    By Eileen Bailey

    Pulling off a Thanksgiving dinner takes planning and organization. For many adults with ADHD, these are problem areas, leaving them feeling frazzled, frustrated and inadequate. Below are eight tips to help you remain calm and spend the day enjoying your family.

    Thanksgiving isn’t really all about the food. Yes, we look forward to the food but the focus of Thanksgiving should be about appreciation and family. Spending time together, taking the time to give thanks for all the good in your life should be your focus. To help lessen the stress of cooking, try one of the following:

    • Choose a dinner you are good at cooking. Although many people choose the traditional Thanksgiving turkey with all the trimmings, that doesn’t mean you have to cook that, your dinner can be anything you want.
    • Buy the entire dinner pre-made. Many stores and restaurants offer to cook your dinner for you, you simply place the order and pick up the meal.
    • Make it a pot-luck Thanksgiving. Make a list of all the foods you would like to see on your table, choose one or two you are willing to make and then start enlisting your guests to bring the others.
    • Go out to eat. Load up the family (be sure to make reservations first) and head out to your favorite restaurant. Some restaurants will serve family style on Thanksgiving and let you take the leftovers home. Others offer a turkey dinner as one of the options and everyone can choose what they want to eat.

    Cook what you can in the days before. Many dishes can be prepared ahead of time, leaving you to only warm them up on Thanksgiving. Write a list of what dishes you are preparing and cook as many as you can in the days leading up to Thanksgiving.

    Set boundaries. If you don’t want to host Thanksgiving dinner this year, speak up and let your family know it is someone else’s turn to have the aunts, uncles and cousins camp out in their house for the afternoon. If you don’t mind hosting, but prefer not to do the cooking, say so. Whatever it is that bothers you the most about Thanksgiving, speak up and insist that it be changed – this could be well meaning comments about your life, your diagnosis of ADHD or your latest boyfriend. If family comments leave you feeling inadequate, let your family know that this year these topics are off limits. See: Managing Thanksgiving with Your Family and ADHD

    Take a walk. Fresh air and exercise can help clear your head and focus your thinking. When you start feeling frazzled, take 10 minutes to go outside even if you have to bundle up and leave someone else in charge of watching the turkey) and take a brisk walk. If you have a house full of children, especially hyperactive ones, bring along a few other adults and let the kids run off some of the extra energy. Your house may be calmer when you all get back and you can once again focus on the meal preparations.

    Count to 10. Adults with ADHD are known for blurting out what they are thinking and when relatives are all together, especially if there are some you don’t get along with, arguments and hard feelings easily erupt. So, instead of telling Aunt Flo exactly what you think of her comment about (fill in the blank – your house, your cooking, your children, your husband) take a deep breath, count to 10 and remember, the day does eventually end.

    Pay attention to how much you are spending. While Thanksgiving isn’t known for elaborate spending, it can be easy to go way over your weekly food budget for just one dinner. If you are tight on finances and hosting a Thanksgiving dinner, consider pot-luck so you aren’t spending all the money on feeding the entire extended family. If you are traveling to see family, pay attention to the cost of airline tickets, looking for specials for off-peak travel times. You may not only save money but avoid the stress of long lines and crowded airports. See: Creating a Simple Budget

    Take care of yourself. Not getting enough rest or not eating right can increase your feelings of stress. Make sure you get enough sleep and eat a good breakfast Thanksgiving morning – whether you are cooking or visiting relatives. Thanksgiving Day tends to be long and by the time dinner is served you may be hungry and cranky – be sure to take care of your own needs throughout the day.

    Accept your family – faults and all. Every family has it’s good points and it’s bad. Our ideas of what the ideal family should be is often based on fictitious characters and families we see on television and in the movies. Our family probably is much different and may not always get along. Accept your family for exactly what it is – an imperfect collection of all different personalities – and try to find something to like about each person.

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