Thanksgiving Tips for ADHD Women

ADHD Thanksgiving
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Women with ADHD can experience a great deal of domestic guilt. The characteristics of ADHD make managing a home challenging, yet women living with ADHD create high standards for themselves. If they struggle to meet them, it can be a source of shame and guilt.  These personal expectations are heightened during holidays. Since Thanksgiving is the biggest ‘home cooking holiday,’ the pressure to excel in the home feels very high.

But what if you change the expectations? What if you were to create a Thanksgiving that honors the spirit of the holiday—to give thanks—in ways that are easy for you, and do not require you to do things that are difficult.

Typical Thanksgiving celebrations involve meal planning, food shopping, cooking a large meal with lots of elaborate side dishes, having a tidy home that is seasonally decorated and being the perfect host for guests. All of these require organizational and time management skills that don’t come naturally to people with ADHD.

A New Way to Think About the Holiday

Dr. Patricia Quinn offers suggestions on how women with ADHD can celebrate and enjoy their Thanksgiving. Dr. Quinn is a co-founder of the ‘Centre for Girls and Women with ADHD’ and an internationally recognized author of a number of ADHD books including 'Understanding Girls with ADHD: How They Feel and Why They Do What They Do'.​

Rather than providing ‘how-to’ tips to try and succeed at a traditional Thanksgiving, Patricia suggests women look at the holiday in a completely new way. She explains that when women with ADHD try to do what is traditionally expected, they feel they are not measuring up to everyone else, and their self-esteem plummets as a result.

Instead, free yourself from the burden of societal expectations and set yourself up for success. Have a Thanksgiving that works with your strengths, priorities and what you are capable of. Be creative and find ways to enjoy life while keeping things simple.

Using this approach, your Thanksgiving might look very different from the images in magazines and TV shows and that is ok! You will have created a memorable, fun holiday for yourself and your family.

Planning Thanksgiving

Dr. Quinn suggests having a family meeting where everyone is involved in the planning. Get input from your partner and kids and decide as a team how you will celebrate Thanksgiving. Take into account everyone’s preference and also each other’s limits. Remember that breaking out of the conventional rules is not only allowed but is encouraged!

Spend Time With Family

At its core, Thanksgiving is about connecting with your family. Traditionally that is done around a dining table, but it doesn’t have to be!  Dr. Quinn said you might spend yours going to a farm to visit live turkeys, picking up an apple pie, or going on a picnic. You can brainstorm all the different options during your family meeting. 

Thanksgiving Dinner

Dr. Quinn used to co-publish the magazine ‘Addvanced: A magazine for Women with ADD’. She described a Thanksgiving photo they shot for the magazine. A family was all sitting down wearing their best clothes at a beautifully decorated table. Mom had even put on her pearls.  It seemed like an idyllic scene until you notice that the large turkey on the table was still frozen. Any ADHD woman would feel huge empathy for the mom in the photo. They understand how much hard work and mental anguish it would take to create that Thanksgiving and also the upset and embarrassment she would feel when she realized she had not quite managed to pull it off.

Dr. Quinn says do not try to fit a round peg into a square hole. If cooking is not your strength, do not do it. Instead, go out to dinner, have a potluck, cook something easier than a big turkey or even order pizza. The same is true for dessert; you do not need to make an apple pie and a pumpkin pie. It is fine to buy them both or have neither.


As Thanksgiving is a holiday that is often spent at home, housework might be part of the preparations. Dr. Quinn says if something feels too much, ask, ‘What is possible?’. If vacuuming all the rugs is too much for you, get rid of the rugs! This is such a liberating perspective. You could also collaborate with your partner and divide the tasks so that your responsibilities work with your strengths or you could hire a cleaner.

Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving and remember Patricia's final words: “Be flexible, give yourself permission to break away from expectations and most importantly have fun.”

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