Back to school tips for parents of a child with ADHD
Back to school can be a scary time for children dealing with ADHD. Transitioning from lazy summer days with little routine to a very structured daily schedule is tough on any child, but more so on children with ADHD. These five tips can help reduce the stress, making it an exciting time, with little to fear.
- Get your child onto a good sleep schedule
Making sure your child gets enough sleep is essential in ensuring they get the most out of the following day. It’s easy to fall out of good sleep patterns in the summer, with late nights, vacations and sleepovers with friends. However, a predictable and consistent bedtime schedule is critical. Try starting to get back into earlier nights at least a few days before the start of school. Many children respond well to a short period of quiet time before bedtime to transition from being alert and active to sleeping. Quiet time can be reading, listening to quiet music, meditation, breathing exercises, or anything that brings their excitement levels down. Try to avoid screen time during this pre-bedtime quiet period. It’s also a good idea to remove your child’s devices from their room until the morning, as it can be tempting to keep looking at their phones if they can’t sleep or wake up in the night. The blue light emitted by screens on cell phones, computers, tablets, and televisions restrains the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls sleep/wake cycle.
Setting an alarm for yourself to wake your child at the same time every day will help to keep them in a good sleep routine.
- Have a school-night routine
Structure, routine and organization in a day can limit chaos and sudden distractions. Knowing what to expect can be calming for children with ADHD.
Coming up with a school-night routine together, as a family unit, can help your child have a successful year. Your evening plan should include some physical activity, whether structured or not, have a set dinner time, time for homework, and quiet time before bed. Remember to include time for packing bags for the next day as this avoids having to rush to do it in the morning. Start getting back into the school evening routine a few days before the start of the school year.
If your child is particularly forgetful, go through the next day’s important tasks and set reminders on his or her phone for any items they must accomplish during the day.
- Eat a healthy and nutritious (low-sugar) breakfast
Every parent should get their child into the habit of eating a healthy and nutritious breakfast before heading off to school, but especially parents of a child with ADHD. Nutrition and diet plays an important role in managing ADHD symptoms, and the wrong foods can aggravate ADHD symptoms. We go into more depth on the right and wrong foods for children with ADHD to eat in this article. A healthy breakfast doesn’t have to be elaborate. Peanut butter toast with sliced apples, cold cereal with bananas, or yogurt with fruit and almonds are quick but nutritious breakfast choices.
- Stay in touch with your child’s teacher
Keeping in touch with your child’s teacher, especially in the first few weeks can be key to your child’s success at school. Ask the teacher to let you know if they notice any behavior issues before they become a problem. Most teachers will be more than willing to work with you to establish a plan of action to ensure desired behaviors are reinforced both at school and in the home.
- Plan exercise into your daily routine
If your child is not enrolled in sports, ensure you plan for some kind of evening exercise, even if it’s just going to the park, or playing soccer in the backyard. Consider getting into yoga or tai chi with your child. Many studies have indicated that yoga is helpful in alleviating hyperactivity and anxiety in people with ADHD, especially in boys, plus it will probably help you with relaxation too! This doesn’t have to mean joining an expensive yoga studio – there are plenty of free yoga tutorials online. We particularly like the free yoga videos offered by Adriane.
Any exercise outside will also mean getting fresh air! Some studies have shown that spending at least 20 minutes out in nature can help kids with ADHD improve their concentration levels.
Going back to school can be tough on children and parents alike, but with a little planning and preparation, the beginning of the school year can be fun and exciting, allowing your child to begin the school year with a positive attitude!