It’s that time of year again! The summer heat is easing up, the first trees are changing colors, and it’s time for the kids– big and small– to head back to school. You want to help prepare your child for a successful school year, but when your child has ADHD, what’s the best way to give them that support?
This guide is designed to help the moms, dads, and other caregivers get ahead of the game and help their student with ADHD have their best school year yet. We’ll cover strategies for:
- All ages
- Elementary and middle school students with ADHD
- High school students with ADHD
- College students and adult learners with ADHD
ADHD Support for All Ages
Kids and adults with ADHD need support at every age, and sometimes it can be tough to give them all of the resources they need. Regardless of how big or small your child is, if he or she is struggling to succeed with ADHD despite your best effort, consider contacting a counselor for additional support and ADHD management strategies.
Harmony has experienced counselors in Pittsburgh, Wheeling, Morgantown, and Bridgeport. These communities supported our doctors and nurses as we grew up, and now we are excited to have the opportunity to give back by helping the next generation achieve academic success and emotional wellbeing.
How to Support Elementary and Middle School Students with ADHD
Ah, summertime. For kids who are too young for summer jobs or summer homework assignments, June heralds in three months of uninterrupted playtime. There’s plenty of time to work off some energy playing outside, taking family vacations, or staying up late having sleepovers with friends. It’s difficult for any fun-loving kid to give that all up to sit inside at school all day, but it’s particularly challenging for students with ADHD.
So what can you do to make the transition a little bit easier?
- Ease into school schedules
- Spend some time getting organized…together
- Get prepared
Start Enforcing Bedtimes and Wake-Up Times Now
During summer vacation, structured bedtimes and wake-up times more or less go out the window. Your kids can stay up all night hanging out with friends or watching television, and you don’t have to worry about dragging them out of bed in the morning. Expecting kiddos to re-adjust to a regular (and earlier!) bedtime and wake-up time is a recipe for trouble if you try to do it all at once.
Instead of putting bedtime in place on the night before the big first day, start easing your little scholars into it. For a few days (or even weeks) before school starts, start gradually making bedtime and wake-up time a little earlier until you hit the schedule you’ll need to keep for the rest of the academic year.
Organization is a Team Sport
Without homework assignments, your child has likely repurposed his or her study area as a craft table/toybox/general mess. A great way to help children get in the correct headspace for concentrating on school work is to help them clear out the clutter. For children with ADHD, it’s never too early to start learning good organizational habits!
Work together to give your child a clean, organized place where they can do their work. It should be separate from their play area and a little bit removed from distractions like toys and television, if possible. That way when your child walks into the space, they know it’s time to really focus.
Out with the Old, In with the New
Let’s face it– kids grow fast, and it can be a challenge to keep track of how much of their wardrobe actually fits them at any given moment. The start of the school year is a great time to go through your child’s closet or dresser to get rid of anything they’ve outgrown. Then hit the mall and take advantage of those awesome back to school sales!
Again, this not only helps your child with ADHD start forming good habits– it also helps get them into a headspace that is conducive to their focus and success.
How to Support High School Students with ADHD
High school is a busy time in any person’s life. More freedom means more activities after school, from football games to first jobs. And that’s not to mention the pressure facing today’s high school students to maintain great grades and jump into extracurricular activities in order to make themselves attractive candidates for the colleges they may want to attend.
What can you do to help your teen navigate this hectic time?
- Write a shopping list
- Set expectations and define strategies
- Reward hard work
The Beauty of Budgeting
Back to school season is a great time for high schoolers to refresh their wardrobes as well, but unlike younger kids, they may be hitting the mall without you. Before you send your teen shopping with their friends, have them make a list of everything they think they’ll need for the upcoming school year. You’ll want to give it a once over to make sure all of the essentials are there.
Tell Them What You’re Looking For
Even though they’re a little bit older now, structure is still key to helping your high schooler with ADHD succeed. Long before the first report card comes home, you should make time to talk to your teen about good study habits and what your expectations are.
For example, you may want to tell them that distractions are off limits during study time, but some students with ADHD are able to focus better with some quiet music on in the background. In this case, working together to agree that music is fine but other distractions like television and social media are not would be a good solution.
It’s also helpful to be clear about what the consequences will be if your kid doesn’t follow the study rules and strategies you’ve defined together.
Keep Communication Open
Teens– with or without ADHD– may be less willing to initiate conversations or outright seek approval or guidance than they were just a few years ago. Make it easy for your child to talk to you. Show interest in what your student is working on and what interests them– not just the grade they get at the end.
When you see your son or daughter maintaining good study habits, compliment them! Ask them what activities they’re looking forward to and what their favorite classes are. High school is exciting, and by keeping the lines of communication open you are able to share in that excitement… as well as provide a support system for your teen.
How to Support College Students with ADHD
College gives the ADHD student more freedom than they’ve ever had before, but after being guided through personal routines and taught good study habits throughout their childhood, your kid should already have many of the tools they need to succeed.
How can you help your young adult settle into independent life?
- Keep talking about good habits
- Stay on top of the paperwork
- Be prepared
Don’t Let New Opportunities Interrupt Good Habits
Fundamentally, a college student with ADHD still needs the structure and organization that they needed throughout their life. However, with all of the new and exciting opportunities that college presents combined with the flexibility of building and keeping their own schedule, it can be easy for your child to get distracted and stop doing what they know they should.
Check in with your child periodically to see how they are doing. You can encourage them to follow good habits, but ultimately you can’t do it for them. If your child makes the decision not to stay organized and focused, they’ll quickly find out that their actions have real consequences. It’s not helpful to rush in and save them from their own mistakes– after all, your kid is almost an adult at this point! Instead provide support and continue encouraging them to do their best and be successful.
Stay on Top of the Paperwork
Getting your child settled at college is a lot of work– and we’re not just talking about hauling boxes into their dorm room. There’s also a lot of paperwork to keep track of and tasks that need to be completed before the first class starts. Make sure you’ve signed all of the forms and paid all of the necessary bills. Check on financial aid, and register for classes as early as possible. Overall, make sure everything’s ready to go before the semester begins.
Get the Lay of the Land
One way to help your college student prepare for campus life is to give yourselves a little extra time to get the lay of the land. Help your child find all of the important things they’ll need– the buildings their classes are in, the laundromat, the cafeteria, the bookstore, and so on. Get an idea of how long it takes to get from place to place. Not only will it make your child feel more comfortable, but it will also help them plan their time once classes get underway.
It’s difficult for anyone to adjust to a new schedule, but for kids with ADHD, preparing for the routine of a new school year presents a particular challenge. Follow these strategies to help your child have the best school year ever. Good luck!