The ADHD Mom's Survival Guide to Chol Hamoed
A few weeks ago, I had a brain wave. I was going to write an ADHD -friendly guide to chol hamoed. Time went by, procrastination got the better of me (it usually does when I have a difficult task ahead of me) and here I am now, in front of my laptop. I've pretty much been staring at a blank screen for two hours. Because Chol hamoed for ADHD moms is HARD, really hard.
Chol Hamoed Challenges for ADHDers
There’s all the planning and time management involved in getting out the house and heading to a suitable destination for the whole family, equipped with the right snacks (even harder over Pesach) and early enough in the day to beat that holiday traffic, or at least to have enough time to do anything worthwhile once you finally get there.
There's decision-making overwhelm with all the possibilities. Everything sounds good on paper - on the web or on the list of fun things to do.
Then there’s that over-stimulation factor that comes with the inevitable crowds. If you’ve got ADHD, chances are one or more of your kids have it too. And there’s not much scarier than hangry, frustrated, over-stimulated kids in an enclosed space with siblings in traffic.
SO yes, chol hamoed is challenging, but there are a few things I’ve learned the hard way in my 17 years in this wonderful ity-bity little country of ours, (where the entire population is out and about in the same 6 days twice a year) – so here they are:
Keep it Simple
The positive effects of fresh air and greenery are
Find out what nature sites are in your area – even if you’ve been there before, you still get the benefits of nature – and without the traffic jams and crowds.
Save the money you’d spend on gas and entry fees, make a stop at a toy shop on the way to by an outdoor game, like a giant frisbee, a variety of balls, beach bats, a hammock. A tent can keep younger kids occupied for hours, even if you don't camp the night. Or bring some old sheets and let the kids build a tent/fort in a forest.
Take scooters or bikes or roller blades to the nearest open space - an empty parking lot will do.
Create a scavenger hunt for a mall ("How much are the most expensive shoes in Teva Naot?", "What is the cheapest item on the menu at Aroma?") and let the kids run around to earn a movie ticket or ice cream.
Run a Masterchef competition in your home and let older kids prepare a meal with what you have in the fridge and pantry.
Take a walk to the bookstore, choose books, and let the kids earn screen time by reading first.
If you and your family can handle the sensory input of sand, the beach can be a great solution for all ages. Even a drive to get an ice-cream and play in the sand/waves for an hour can do wonders to one’s mood – something about the combination of sun, wind and crashing waves.
Outsource your planning skills to a teen child. Give them a budget and challenge them to plan a family-friendly day. Give each teen a day to prepare.
If you do want to get out of your surroundings for a bit, use your night-owl habits to prep everything the night before – snacks, water bottles , on-the-go breakfasts, clothes for the kids and you, pack the car – anything you can do the night before, do it.
Learn from the Experts
Here are some more tips that were offered by other moms on my page and ADHD mom's support group (IMAA):
Join prearranged group outings. That way, you have a place and time already set for you.
Aim to strike a balance - Plan something each day, not too much to get overwhelmed, not too little to have no structure.
Remember to stagger outings with downtime to get the most enjoyment out of chol hamoed. There doesn't need to be a big, expensive (and often crowded, overstimulating and stressful) activity every single day.
Take enough snacks with for kids (and you) so that you can avoid waiting and crowds if they're hungry. Bring lots of fruit, veggies and water. Throw in boiled eggs and cans of tuna for filling protein.
If you want to keep it simple and let go a little, my kids love nothing more than matzah and chocolate spread sandwiches. If you balance these with the veggies, eggs and tuna, it can’t be that bad, right? It’s Pesach, remember – give yourself a break!
Embrace the Glass-Half-Full
Yes, the lack of routine, late nights and planning involved can be hard – but so can getting out the door on time every single weekday. Enjoy the good things about chol hamoed: the change of pace, hanging out in pajamas a bit longer (the kids and you) , eating breakfast together like on those long-forgotten Sundays we used to have in chutz le'aretz, without all the rush of schoolbag packing, sandwich making and homework supervision for a few days.
What survival tips would you share with ADHD moms?