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10 Talks to Have at the Start of the School Year

Set your child up for a successful school year by having these important conversations with your child, your teacher, your doctor, other parents, your family -- and yourself.

Talk with Your Child About the Upside of ADHD

If you child has ADHD, she may have low self-esteem. Before the school year starts, state the positives of ADHD by framing it constructively. Use phrases like, “You have a turbo-charged brain, meaning you have tons of great ideas and will have fun your whole life. But like a racecar, you need to know how to put on the brakes.”

Ask Your Child About His Friends

Your ADHD child may need help identifying classmates he can befriend. Early on, sit down and talk about his new classmates. Listen for clues about personalities that might complement his own. Ask him what after-school activities he is interested in. He has a better chance of making friends with a child who has similar interests.

Help Your Child Appreciate His Teacher

Children can some times use dislike for the teacher as an excuse to stop trying. Engage your child to find something to appreciate about her teacher, especially if he thinks that teachers are the enemy. This could be as simple as appreciating a teacher’s taste in music or movies, or the car he drives.

Talk with the Teacher

Talk with her teacher during the first week of school. Without being pushy, clarify your child’s challenges and strengths. Tell the teacher about discipline strategies that have worked in the past, and let him know about your child’s interests—create an album of photos and anecdotes so he gets a well-rounded view of her. If you have an IEP or 504 Plan in place, make sure her teacher knows about it.

Follow-Up with Your Child's Teacher

Schedule a second meeting with your child’s teacher a month into school. If your child is on medication, ask the teacher if she notices any side effects, or if there are times when his ADHD symptoms are not well managed. You may need to adjust his medication. Keep the lines of communication open through the school year. Calling or emailing is probably easier than doing a face-to-face meeting.

Talk With Your Child's Doctor

If your child is on medication, talk to the prescribing doctor in late summer and make a plan for school. If this is the first time your child will be taking medication, schedule this appointment several weeks earlier, so you can fine-tune the dose and timing before school begins. Make sure your child has coverage during his most challenging classes.  

Check-In with Your Child's Doctor

A few weeks after school begins, have a follow-up conversation with your child’s prescribing doctor. Use the feedback from your child and her teacher, and your own observations, to decide if the current course of medication is right. Discuss any side effects you’ve noticed and how effective the treatment plan is throughout the day.

Connect with Other Parents

It’s your decision to share your child’s condition with other parents. If you do talk, there are benefits.

>> Sharing invites parents to share—you might pick up tips about meeting your child’s needs.

>> You model good social skills to your child.

Speaking openly about ADHD will make him proud of the condition.

Discuss ADHD as a Family

ADHD affects your family dynamics. Have your child describe what ADHD feels like, and explain how the family can support her. If you have non-ADHD children, let them share their perspective as well. Encourage each family member to talk about his or her challenges and the kind of support he or she needs.

Talk to Your Partner

Sit down to review what you’ve learned about your child in the last year. What helped him succeed? Has his personality changed? Are you both on the same page when it comes to discipline, goals in school, extracurricular activities? Maybe an old idea needs revision. You may face some new challenges this year, but trust yourself to make the right decisions.

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