Getting Ready to Go Back to School

Expert advice to help children with ADHD start the school year off right.

adhd adult back to school

The last few days of summer are to be savored – a long Labor Day Weekend at the lake, lazy afternoons by the pool and that lingering barbecue with the neighbors, watching the kids play kickball in the early dusk. Squeezing every moment of joyous freedom out of the setting summer is what you and your kids want to do, not worry about the impending school year.

But nothing ruins that feeling of freedom more than ending the summer with zero-hour panic to get organized. A few simple preparations during those last few weeks will help ease the transition.

The Elementary Student

Many children are allowed to stay up a little later in the summer. Expecting them to re-adjust to an earlier bedtime and wake-up time at the drop of a hat, however, can leave them tired and cranky.

The first and most important factor in preparing them for school is to establish a realistic bedtime that will allow them enough rest and ample time in the morning to get out the door on schedule. Start doing this at least two weeks before school, even if you are on vacation.

Take time with each child to organize his room and study area. Let your child take part in getting his room ready for the school year; for the AD/HD child it’s never too early to start learning these important habits. Check to make sure your child has enough desk area to work on and that the lighting is sufficient.

Make a list of school supplies to be purchased. Most teachers will send out notices in advance of supplies that will be needed for the next grade. Go through each closet and dresser with your child, removing the clothes your child has outgrown and making a list of what is needed for the new school year. Shop early, and buy multiples of basic school supplies, so that there are extras in case something gets lost – and something always gets lost!

The High School Student

Teenagers will most likely want to do their own shopping for back to school clothes, but have them make a list for you to review before sending them off to the mall. Talk with them about budgeting the money they have available to cover all the items needed. Send them off with a calculator so they can keep track of what they are spending and stick to their budget. You certainly don’t want them returning with a handful of designer items and no underwear because they ran out of money and didn’t keep track of what they were spending.

Talk with your teenager about study time before the first report card. Post study rules as a reminder and agree upon what will be in their best interest. Some students study best with music in the background, but never allow the TV to be turned on during study hours. TV is designed to attract our attention – and it does.

Structure and routine are the keys to success for an AD/HD student, so talk with your teen about how to go about this. Be clear about the consequences that will result when the rules are disregarded, and don’t be afraid to get tough. Let her know that enforcement of the rules is nothing more than an act of love as a parent, and not particularly easy or pleasant to do.

When you see your daughter following through on her study commitments, compliment and reward her. Most importantly, show genuine concern and interest for your teen’s schoolwork and activities. Share in the excitement of their high school years by keeping the lines of communication open.

The College Student

For the college-bound, there is more to getting ready for classes than just setting up your study area and organizing your room. Take time over the summer to look at the course schedule. Choose the classes you would like to enroll in, and register early. If you don’t get to it before they fill up, you don’t want to be left making an impulsive or inappropriate decision about what classes to take. Check on your financial aid, if applicable, as well as your tuition and other fees.

It’s very unpleasant to arrive on the first day of classes and find out your enrollment has been canceled because someone forgot to sign a form or pay a bill. If you work during the semester, investigate job openings and apply well in advance – by the time school starts, most part-time positions in college towns are filled.

Pack early and leave early so you can scout out the essentials near your dormitory or apartment. Check out the laundromat, cafeteria, grocery store and bank. Don’t buzz in at the last minute, drop your boxes in your room and head out to meet friends — get the computer set up and actually make sure it’s working. You don’t want to sit down to write your first paper, only to find out that the printer is not printing or you can’t access the Internet. Take your schedule to the campus bookstore and find your textbooks before the first week of classes, when it becomes a madhouse.

The start of a brand-new school year is stressful for students at any level, but can be especially jarring to AD/HD kids who just got used to summer’s calmer pace. Helping your child by slowly implementing new schedules and organization before class starts will make the changes less frenetic and studying easier to cope with.

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