Getting Ready for School

Another summer is whipping by and it’s time to start thinking about school again. For many kids, the transition back to school can be tough. For those with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD) the transition can be trickier. This is because transitions are often difficult for kids with AD/HD. The following are a few tips to help start the school year in a positive way.

  1. Start to prepare yourself and your child mentally. Reminders of the transition so there are no surprises can be helpful. All children, especially those with AD/HD like predictability. Sure, most children would rather talk about vegetables than school during summer break, but let’s be honest, most parents are looking forward to it and most kids do like to have some structure. I’m not suggesting the family spends the rest of the summer break sitting around, protractor and notebook in hand, waiting for school. However, discussions about a child’s feelings with school coming, his or her concerns and excitement, and what he or she expects can be helpful. Things to talk about may include trouble finding classes and keeping up with homework, dealing with bullies, meeting new people, and, for teens, drugs and alcohol. Over time you can help your child develop strategies to deal with his or her struggles or conflicts. Children who feel listened to in this way tend to do much better.
  2. Get to know your child’s teacher and other support staff at school. Do this as early as possible to have a good line of communication with the school. Let them know what your child’s struggles may be. Help the child express that to the teacher as well. The staff will appreciate that you are working with them for the benefit of your child.
  3. If the school is new, help your child get oriented to it. This is especially important in the transitions from grade school to middle school or middle to high school. Some schools have orientation programs. You can always request a tour of the school with your child as well.
  4. Prepare for new bedtime routines. Summer break is almost defined by children and teenagers sleeping in and going to bed late. Bedtime transition is important here. Usually you are best served if you begin this transition two weeks before school starts. This can be done by gradually making the bedtime earlier and the wake­up time earlier, and helping your child avoid naps. Sleep is vital for children and teenagers’ success in school.
  5. Help your child develop support and strategies for success. Take your child to the store and help him or her pick out a good organizer; notebook or electronic. Work with your child on how they will use it. Some children need tape machines and will need word processors for homework and class notes. Ensure that your child has the necessary supplies or equipment and understands how to use them.
  6. Avoid being punitive when you can and reward success. A common trap to fall in when parenting or teaching a child with AD/HD is that parents and teachers focus on negative behavior and are punitive for the child’s struggles, but don’t talk about or recognize good effort and successes.    This is because AD/HD symptoms can cause a child to have low grades and appear to choose to have bad behavior and low grades. Of course you will need limits and consequences for true bad behavior. However, most children with AD/HD do better when they are rewarded for success, they feel supported around their struggles, and their efforts are acknowledged. The rewards do not have to be big and can include a family dinner out, extra time together before bed, or small increases in allowance.
  7. Hold off on any other big changes. Try to keep you child’s routine as consistent and predictable as possible as he or she transitions into school.

Good luck and success to all for the 2007­/2008 school year!

Thanks to “Attention” magazine, August 2007.

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