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Tips for Getting Children with ADHD Ready for Back to School

Tips for Getting Children with ADHD Ready for Back to School

Dr. Megan Brown, child psychologist

The weather will soon be turning cooler and those long, lazy days of lounging poolside or spending every waking moment with best friends while away at summer camp are quickly coming to an end. But with every end, comes a new beginning and an opportunity for change. Back to school time brings bright possibilities and the chance for a clean slate to introduce new organizational strategies into your home.

Organization doesn’t just happen and children with ADHD need scaffolding and support to help organize themselves and their environments. Each family will have their own way of setting up certain systems and it is important to communicate as a family so that the systems are clear to all family members. The first day of school is no time for drastic changes in household schedules. Hold a family meeting 2-3 weeks prior to the first day back at school and discuss expectations, consequences, and brainstorm ideas to help each day flow more smoothly.

Children should be eased back into their school routines gradually. A major change in routine for most kids over the summer is sleep. It is scientifically proven that sleep affects mood, behavior, attention, learning and all biological function; therefore, it is critical that children get enough (quantity) and quality sleep. During the last 2 weeks of summer, reintroduce a school year bedtime and spend the hour before relaxing, talking about the day, reading books, or singing songs to wind down. This time should help the child physically and emotionally transition to a calmer state. Set the alarm closer and closer to the time he or she needs to wake up in the morning.

If mornings are chaotic, agree as a family what everyone needs to do to be out the door and when. Try doing as much the night before as possible. Have a visual schedule posted for kids to know exactly what is expected of them and how long each task should take. Try to do practice runs in the last few weeks of summer and make necessary adjustments so that everyone is set up for success when school starts.

Another thing that changes in the summer are meal times. Plan meals and snack times according to the school routine and get your children used to these times and eating the types of foods they will have at school.

Create a central calendar that you color code for each family member and post his/her activities, responsibilities, etc. Predictability, structure, and routine are the keys to success for all children, and especially those with ADHD. The calendar also relieves parents from answering repeated questions regarding the schedule!

Before school starts, make a list of school supplies to be purchased. Pick a day to do back to school shopping and STICK TO YOUR LIST! Otherwise, it can be hectic and overwhelming for all, but mostly to your wallet!

Be sure to make time each day for FUN and connect with your child! Spend time playing a game, walking in the park, reading a story, or anything that works for your family and is specifically time spent bonding with your child. When children feel connected, they are less likely to worry or be anxious. As a parent, you need to be positive! Beliefs determine behaviors. Be optimistic, be loving, and try to help your child get over their fears of transition and change so that they will look forward to the new school year ahead with enthusiasm and vigor!

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