5 steps to kick-start school-year routines for kids with ADHD

Returning to school-year schedules and routines after a long summer break can be hard. That’s especially true for kids with ADHD, who struggle with skills like flexible thinking, organization, and working memory. The key is to switch to back-to-school mode early — don’t wait until just a day or two before school starts.

Use this five-step plan to get your child back into school-year routines.

1. Start “back-to-school” mode at least a week before the first day of school.

The more time your child has to get back into the school groove, the easier the transition will be. Let your family know what the game plan is ahead of time. For example, “On Monday we’re getting back into our school routine.” You can even put it on the calendar: Back-to-school begins.

2. Remind your child what goes into a school-year schedule.

Your child may not remember what life was like two months ago. Remind them that back-to-school means earlier bedtimes and wake-up times. There are set times for things like baths and meals. It also means picking out clothing the night before, and routines for getting ready to leave for school and for doing homework.

3. Use organization tools to help your child stay on track.

Tools like lists, charts, and picture schedules can help your child stick with routines. Start with the toughest part of the day first. For many kids with ADHD, that’s school mornings. Use the week before school as a test run. Make sure you’re leaving enough time for your child to complete each task. Be specific. For example, you might list the first wake-up call at 7:15 a.m., and the second and final call at 7:20 a.m. Then, dressed and ready for breakfast at 7:40 a.m.

4. Get your child ready for afterschool schedules.

Set a specific time for when your child will do homework during the school year. Have your child do a quiet activity they enjoy during that time. It could be reading, listening to music, drawing — but nothing with screens. Practicing this homework time can be especially helpful for kids who have trouble with planning and managing time.

5. If your child takes ADHD medication, adjust that routine, too.

You may need to adjust your child’s routine around ADHD medication. This is especially true if your child took a break from it over the summer. Talk to your child’s health care provider about when to start back on a school schedule, or any other questions about medication.

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