School is back in session! While it can be a fun and exhilarating time, if you are affected by ADD or ADHD it can be marked more by anxiety or dread. Fortunately, this doesn’t have to remain the case. Here are a few tips to help your child have a much more positive school year.
1. Set up a Few Goals and Rewards for the Upcoming Year.
Keep in mind that these goals should focus on good behavioral reports, getting ready for school on time, getting to bed early, and completing assignments. There is a large spectrum of ways to positively reenforce your child’s behavior. Be sure to provide praise and encouragement to them, as children with ADD and ADHD respond better to this than to criticism. (If you catch them being good, remark on it whenever possible!) Other examples of rewards include staying up later on weekends if they got to bed early during the week, allowing for extra “media time” (TV, movies, music, games) or “outside time” for getting homework done on time and correctly, or allowing the first child ready for school “shotgun” in the car on the way to school. Find what works best for your child.
2. Inspire Good Habits: Agree on a Daily Routine
When school starts, the family should have a conscious idea of what their particular routine will be. Sit down as a family and come up with a time that everyone should be out the door and list all the things that need to take place to make this happen, ie. time to wake up, bathroom time, breakfast time, preparation time, etc. Some habits that help streamline the process include selecting clothes to wear the night before they go to school, having their backpacks ready to go and by the door the night before, and even eating dinner as a family helps. You can utilize this time as a bonding experience for everyone by utilizing interaction. You’d be surprised how much good comes from talking about one “positive daily event” and one “negative daily event” while at the table together.
3. Take Advantage of Special Services and Meet with Your Child’s Teacher
Touch base with your child’s teacher to check on your IEP or 504 plan, if you have one. Find out about any major projects or other assignments that are coming up this year. Ask what the teacher expects for homework and ask how you can communicate with the teacher to keep track of completed and outstanding assignments.
4. Help Your Children with Homework: Set up a Study Schedule Based on What You Learn From Meeting with Their Teacher
A great way to help your child is by setting up a study routine. Once again, set up a family meeting and figure out if they will have free time before or after homework. Agree to the time it should begin and then schedule daily/weekly assignments for each subject, as well as larger projects. Also help your child come up with a system to turn in the completed assignments, as they often forget.
To help them get started on their homework you can break down larger assignments into smaller, more manageable ones that are easier to tackle. When they are finished, be sure to check for accuracy and completeness.
5. Reinforce the Importance of Reading
For a child with ADHD it can be extremely difficult to focus on the page. These days, kids have so much media that they passively interact with (TV, Movies, Music, etc), it can seem strenuous to actively participate. Here are a few things you can do to help them. While reading, ask them for their predictions of what might happen next. It doesn’t matter if they are wrong or right, it just gets them actively and cognitively involved with the story they are reading. As they read, have them identify on sticky notes the who, where, when, problem, and solution of each section. Also have them translate figures of speech, as these can really throw them for a loop. You can even utilize alternative formats. If reading the book, alone, just isn’t cutting it try out a book on tape, or for particularly difficult passages in novels, try spark-notes or other abridged materials.
6. Be Sure to Schedule “Fun Time”
The thing about anxiety is that it is a reaction to fear. If your child experiences anxiety during back-to-school time, it can usually be attributed to a fear of the unknown (how this year will go) or of the past (dread that they will perform poorly, as they have in the past). To combat their fears, try to bring more positivity to the table. Set aside 10 – 20 minutes per day to do something fun with them. Try playing a short game, making something together, going for a walk, tossing a ball, throwing a frisbee in the park, WHATEVER. Help them enjoy themselves and you just might start seeing positive results.