Trading the lazy days of summer for the structure of the classroom isn't something most children and teens look forward to, but for those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the transition back to school can be especially difficult.
And it's not just children and teens that are affected -- it can be a challenge for the entire family. Whether it's rushing to get everyone out the door in the morning or struggling to complete homework at night, many parents may find the stresses that a new school year can bring overwhelming.
The stress of a new school year can include many different areas for your child, such as: academic challenges, social issues, behavioural challenges, family issues, self-esteem frustrations and much more. It's important to remember that ADHD goes beyond the core symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity.
The good news is that there are steps you can take to start the year off right and help your kids have a happy and healthy year:
• Start the school routine early. Over the summer holidays, we tend to slack on routines. After a summer of unstructured outings and lax bedtimes, children and teens with ADHD can find it difficult to get back into the swing of school. A few weeks ahead of the first day of class, start establishing a firm bedtime and wake-up time. This gives your child time to adjust to early mornings and a new schedule. And once school starts, aim to keep the first weekends on the same routine - so that your child stays on this schedule.
• Get medical support. Make speaking with your child's doctor as much of a priority as purchasing new clothes, notebooks and pencil crayons. Two to six weeks after the school year starts, take time to sit down with your doctor to establish a treatment management plan.
• Keep treatment on track. If your child is on medication, take note of the brand they have been prescribed and make sure they remain on the same treatment over the school year. For parents who have opted to stop the use of ADHD medication during the summer holidays, ensuring that your child is put back on the same brand is especially important. Sometimes, your pharmacist may switch the brand of medication for a generic version, but they are not always identical. Make sure you double-check what the pharmacist is giving you, or avoid the substitution by asking your doctor to include a "no substitution" on the script.
• Advocate for your child. Remember to speak up at school to ensure that your child is set up for success. Start by talking with his/her teacher about the tools and support they'll need to do their best. Share what works at home (or doesn't!) and discuss any lessons learned from the previous school year.
• Set clear expectations. Create a schedule outlining expectations for different parts of the day. Aim to concentrate on areas of concern from the previous year whether it was getting ready in the morning, finishing chores or completing homework. Post the list on the fridge or for younger children, consider using pictures.
• Focus on strengths. Most importantly, stay positive and focus on your child''s strengths. Remember that transitioning from summer holidays to school can be especially challenging for children and teens with ADHD. Celebrate all successes, no matter how small - anything from a good mark to making a new friend - and you'll be sure to have a fantastic school year ahead.
Do you have your own tips for making the transition back to school a smooth one? Please share your thoughts and comments below! For more parenting tips on how to best work with children and teens with ADHD, visit drkenny.com to access my blog and newsletter.