Going back to school can be a stressful time for children with ADHD, as well as for their families. The more relaxed environment of summer is replaced by arguments over homework, paying attention and following directions at school. It doesn’t have to be that way if you start the school year by discussing a plan with your child to help reduce the stress on everyone from the start. Here are some things to consider for your back to school game plan.
Michael Rubino, a psychotherapist who works with children with ADHD, has the following suggestions.
Set goals, expectations and rewards – Work with your child to set reasonable goals around things like completing homework assignments, getting to school on time, and behaving well in class. Make sure those goals are obtainable. Motivate achieving or exceeding those goals with something your child would enjoy or value. And be generous in your praise and encouragement. Even when goals are missed, provide positive reinforcement rather than criticism.
Establish daily routines – Create a plan with your child on what needs to happen each morning, afternoon and evening and when. This daily routine, once established, can do a lot to reduce the daily stress that can come with just getting your child off to school on time. Give the plan a test and tweak it as necessary. Then post schedule of these daily tasks in a place where everyone can see it.
Meet with your child’s teacher – It’s important to meet with your child’s teacher as early in the school year as possible. If your child has an IEP or 504 plan, this meeting might be to discuss how you can support their implementation of the plan. If not, you can discuss upcoming assignments and projects and how you can support your child getting those done. You want to establish good communication with the teacher about the school work to help keep your child on track throughout the year.
Create a study schedule – Once you understand what the assignments and projects are, the next step is to set up a study schedule with your child to ensure they get completed. Along with time set aside for studying and homework, it is important to determine when to take breaks or have down time. Along with this schedule, try keeping a log of homework assignments and checking off items when they are completed. Also, make sure completed assignments actually get turned in.
Add some fun to the mix – Though your home and work schedule can be demanding, make sure to include some regular time for fun with your child. This can be something simple – playing a short game, going for a walk, tossing a ball, or a brief outing. These times will strengthen bonds and help smooth out some of the difficulties that come with the school year.
If problems in school persist despite your efforts, or you would just like some extra help, consider engaging a coach who is specially trained to work with ADHD children. Their experience and guidance can enhance the support you provide.