How to take your ADHD kids out to dinner and actually enjoy it

The first time I went out to dinner with my son he was an infant and slept through the entire event.  Fast forward 18 months and meals out we’re like walking on hot lava with bare feet—only for the highly skilled professional and a total s$&t show for other diners. 

There are many parents who avoid meals out from 12 months to 3 and 1/2.  I think these parents are bold.  However, I didn’t want to avoid dinners out, altogether.  Yes, I am an ADHD parent and I think dinners out are possible.  Repeat that: I am an ADHD parent and I think dinners out are possible.  Here are some of the tools I’ve made my own over the years.  Don’t give up on going out.  It won’t be heaven but it doesn’t have to be hell, either.


PREPARE a bag of tricks.  Bring mini play-doh tubes, the white marker coloring books where colors magically appear, scratch off art papers and some crayons/markers and paper.  My “out to dinner” bag is always packed.  leave the bag in the car all the time.  One less thing for you to have to remember.



Pick a kid-friendly restaurant and go early.  For lunch (which is rare for us) we go at 1130am.  For dinner, no later than 530pm.  The crowd is thinner and less “intimate” at 530 than at 730.  I like to leave when the dinner rush begins.


PREPARE, mentally.  Remind yourself you may have to take a child to walk around outside for a few minutes.  Make peace with your daughter’s loud talking and a few stares. from time to time.  Many people have children and they survive a dinner out.  You WILL survive.  If all else fails, take your child to the car and leave the other parent/adult to pack up the food to go and pay the check.



REPEAT.  Go out to dinner at least once a month if restaurant dining behavior is something you want your children to perform WELL.  My husband and I love going out to eat.  He was a chef and I was a bartender in our previous lives.  If you want your children to use inside voices, wait patiently for their food, take turns having a conversation and learn to entertain themselves, PRACTICE.


!Bon Appetit!


Is there anything you ABSOLUTELY AVOID in public with your ADHD child?  

Published by Family ADDventures

Nicole Santiago is a learning specialist, student advocate, and founder of Family ADDventures. As a specialist, she assesses and teaches clients (adults and adolescents) to manage and grow their executive functioning skills which include emotional regulation, task initiation, and time management. As an advocate (IEP coach), she is a member of COPAA and ensures inclusive (special) education students receive the most appropriate educational services possible. She often collaborates with OT's, SLP's and neuropsychologists all in the name of student improvement and success. Her practice is located in San Antonio, TX, and everywhere (virtually). The author grew up an army brat and spends time with her three ND children and husband in Puerto Rico whenever possible. She writes about mental health, parenting, education, and entrepreneurship on her blog:

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