Back to School Prep for ADHD Children
The back to school season can be a hectic, stressful time for any family with children. For families with ADHD children, there is a lot more anxiety added. During the summer months, many parents choose to give children time away from medication therapy, often only maintaining behavioral health sessions with the child’s mental health provider. School year schedules and strict routines are often bypassed as well. As the beginning of the school year approaches, there are some things families can do to make the transition easier.
Several weeks before the first day, start establishing new bedtimes and waking children up earlier. Get your child used to a set sleep schedule beforehand. Some parents mistakenly wait until a week before school starts. While this might work under different circumstances, for children with ADHD this is not ideal. It can take a few weeks for this routine to settle in effectively. In addition to a sleep schedule, establish a schedule for daily tasks, such as lunch, that would be as close to a normal school schedule as possible.
It will also be necessary to restart medications in advance. You will need to make sure you start the medication schedule early enough that regular dosing is established before the first day of school. Your child’s mental health provider can advise you on the amount of time that the medication will need to stay consistent in your child’s system.
Many schools will have a set day before school starts to meet your child’s teacher(s) for the year. Whenever possible, attend this meeting, and take your child with you. This will allow your child to meet the teacher and see their classroom before the first day. You gain the ability to talk with the teacher about your child and your child will have less anxiety about the first day.
Additionally, you have an opportunity to discuss specific needs. Be sure to talk about extra bathroom breaks, increased water intake, or any other side effects of your child’s medication. You should also inform the teacher if your child will need to take medication during school hours.
Begin gathering supplies as early as you can. Even if you can only start getting things that will be used at home, start organizing these supplies. Allow your child to be involved in setting up a homework or study area. Make sure it is well-lit and free from distractions.
When you purchase school supplies, organize those as well. Separate writing and coloring instruments into different colored containers or pencil boxes. Include different colored folders for various papers and clearly label them. At home, make sure your child has gathered everything needed for the next day before bedtime so that you are not scrambling in the morning trying to find supplies.
Create a Family Station
Over the summer, your child may have adjusted to a different type of routine that was less structured. Transitioning to a new schedule might cause a bit more anxiety. A family station can help the whole family. Everyone can see the schedule. You can include your child’s school schedule, appointments, and activities.
As you are trying to re-establish a structured routine, it may be helpful to create a checklist for your child. This can help keep your child focused and on-task. Use set times and time blocks. Start with morning tasks, such as getting dressed. Use a time block for school hours, and then a mix of time blocks and set times for the rest of the day. Set times are ideal for tasks that might be tedious or boring and lead to easy distraction, such as chores and homework. Time blocks are best suited for activities such as sports and free time or family time.
Back to school season does not have to be troublesome. The most important aspect for a child with ADHD is routine. Discuss other potential aids with your child’s behavioral health specialist. Be sure to keep your child’s therapy appointments during this transition period.