According to the United States Census Bureau, approximately 7.5% of school-aged children in the United States have Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). These disorders can affect the child’s ability to stay on task and pay attention. Back-to-school time can create increased stress or anxiety due to a change in routine and new situations. Prepare ahead of time to avoid that for you and your child as much as possible.
1. Re-establish bedtime and wake-up time.
Many kids are allowed to stay up later at night and sleep later in the mornings during the summer. Instead of starting cold on the first day of school, start their school-year bedtime and wake time at least two weeks before school starts. This will help prevent them from being tired and out of sorts the first week of school.
2. Prepare their room and study area.
If your child will have homework and/or study time, prepare a place before school starts. Involve your child in selecting a space for this and organize it with the supplies that will be needed such as paper, pencils, a trash can, comfortable seating, and sufficient lighting.
3. Create a calendar.
Children with ADHD tend to thrive on predictability, so the regular school schedule is probably beneficial to them. However, if they were not on a schedule during the summer, they could panic over the transition. Create a family calendar and post it in a central location ahead of time. Add the school schedule, when lunch is, what their after-school activities are, and other appointments so they know what to expect.
4. Visit the school and talk with teachers.
Visit the child’s new classroom(s) and meet their teacher(s) to remove the ‘unknown’ factor. Take a tour of the whole school if it is new to your child. Before the first day of class, communicate the needs of your child to new teachers and aids. Become partners with them. Don’t start off with expectations—instead, go in with the goal of creating a relationship that will support your child. Also communicate to your child’s teachers that snacks and drinks need to be offered frequently due to their ADHD medication, which can suppress their appetite. Waiting too long between meals can cause ‘hangriness” (hunger and anger).
5. Practice calming exercises.
The new school year brings new activities, environments, and authority figures, all of which can be stressful. Before the first day of school, which can overwhelm them or cause them to act out, practice thinking through their responses. Do yoga or deep breathing exercises together to relieve stress, anxiety, and excess energy. Physical exercise before new situations can also help discharge excessive energy and release endorphins and other calming brain chemicals.
6. Be encouraging.
Remember to use positive reinforcement to remind your child that you believe in them and are proud of them, in order to help prevent them from acting out. Tell your child you recognize and appreciate good behavior when it occurs. When speaking about school, the schedule, doing homework, and other school-related topics, engage in positive conversations and have a good time.
Preparation and sticking to a routine, along with positive reinforcement, will go a long way in easing the back-to-school transition for both you and your child.
If you have concerns about your child — whether they have been diagnosed with ADHD or not — please feel free to reach out to Meridien Research’s Bradenton, Lakeland or Maitland locations. We have several pediatric ADHD research studies enrolling now. Call 888-777-8839 or visit our individual study pages for more information.