As a parent of a child with ADHD, you’ve probably noticed something I observe among my patients: kids with ADHD don’t do well in the winter. As fall turns to winter and a blanket of snow covers the streets, kids with ADHD tend to:
- Become more hyperactive or impulsive as they grow increasingly restless. In the winter, they have fewer opportunities to burn excess energy or do activities they enjoy outside of school or at home.
- Become more argumentative and oppositional due to the inability to use their regular coping skills, such as outdoor activities or sports, to help them vent their feelings and burn off excess energy.
- Become more distracted and inattentive, resulting in difficulties doing homework or completing errands and chores.
- Experience more disciplinary or legal trouble as their frustration, restlessness, impulsivity, and hyperactivity increases.
Does this sound like your child?
Like everyone else, children with ADHD develop habits, skills, or behaviors that enable them to cope with their feelings, highs, lows, and the obstacles caused by their symptoms. Perhaps you’ve helped your child develop some of these healthy habits. While the average child can easily cope with the changes caused by the seasons, most of those with ADHD do not handle change well. They overreact to these disruptions because they perceive a threat underneath the change. Because of their symptoms, their reactions to change tend to involve the behaviors described above.
What can you do to help your ADHD child cope with the winter blues?
- Keep the house as well-lit and cheerful as possible. In the daytime, draw back the curtains and bring in as much natural light as you can. At night, use lamps or light up the room with a string of Christmas lights. Dark, dreary environments can aggravate ADHD symptoms or trigger seasonal affective disorder.
- Enroll your child in a gym or a winter camp. These programs will provide your child with enough activities to keep him or her occupied, happy, and fit.
- Turn a spare bedroom or garage into a homemade gym for days when your child has no choice but to stay indoors. You don’t have to buy state-of-the-art exercise equipment for this; your homemade gym have a hula hoop, exercise balls, a tension band, a trampoline if there’s enough space, or a television with a Wii sports console.
- Spend some quality time with your child. Ask about how your child’s day went and what he or she is feeling. Make it a real bonding session by sharing similar stories from your childhood.
Most children with ADHD will show significant improvements with these interventions but if your child’s symptoms continue to persist, check with your health care provider immediately. Kids and teens with ADHD are more likely to experience depression during the cold winter months.