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The lazy, hazy days of summer are soon to be replaced with the hectic, scheduled (or over-scheduled), structured school day. You can help your students start the school year right with a little planning and practice.
Predictability, structure, and routine are keys to a successful start to the school year. Now is the time to begin to re-establish school routines.
Re-establish Sleep Routines
Instead of having a tired, cranky child on the first day of school, begin to adjust your child’s schedule at least a week prior to the start of school. Begin by adjusting sleep and wake times just 10 minutes per day until back on their school schedule. If you have an entering kindergartner who still naps, begin to phase-out of naptime prior to back to school.
Eliminate Screen Time 60 minutes before bedtime
The blue light from our electronic devices disrupts the sleep/wake cycle and can stimulate the brain enough to impact the natural sleep cycle. Replace screen time before bed with a quiet activity such as a book. Depending on the age of the child, you can read to them, they can read to you, or they can read quietly on their own.
Adjust meal and snack times
Just as enough sleep is critical for your child, so is a healthy diet. Adjust your child’s meal and snack times to align with the new school day. Begin to transition away from summer snacks such as ice cream and chips to the nutritious snacks they will consume during the school day. If this year is bringing new responsibilities such as preparing breakfast or buying lunch, practice with your child so they will feel comfortable and you have allotted sufficient time in your routine.
Retrain the Brain
Turn off the TV and video games and ease your child back into the learning process by encouraging them to read or play quietly. Engage with your child in board games, card games or jigsaw puzzles to encourage problem-solving and thinking.
Establish and Practice the After School Routine
Ensure your child understands what happens after school. Will they participate in an after-school program, take the bus to after-school care, be picked up by you, a spouse or caregiver?
Set up a Homework station
Create or designate a space for your child to complete their homework. Whether a desk in their room, the kitchen table or another space, ensure your child has a space to complete their work. Establish designated locations for permission slips, homework that needs to checked, and other school papers. Determine when you will be available to help with homework.
Prepare for the Unexpected
Have emergency back up plans in place. What happens if your child gets sick at school and the nurse calls, who will pick up your child from school? If your child misses the bus, how will they get to school? If your morning routine falls apart, how will your child get to school on time?
Time for Fun
Don’t forget to have fun. Setting routines and schedules for sleep, meals, school, and homework will provide a framework for the day. However, time for fun and one-on-one time with your child should be included in their day.
While predictability, structure, and routine are important for all children, they are critical for children with ADD or ADHD. In addition to the tips above, parents of a child with ADD or ADHD should also consider the following tips:
Meet with the Teacher
Meet with the teacher to discuss and review the IEP or 504 plan that has been recommended for your child. Understand how the plan will be enacted in the classroom. Understand the expectations of the classroom behavior and the consequences when the behavior is not met.
Set Goals and Rewards
Set clear, reasonable goals and rewards for your child’s behavior. Make sure each goal is reasonable and obtainable. Praise and reward your child for good behavior.
Start Back on Medications
If you have discontinued your child’s medications for the summer, resume their medications prior to school starting. This will give them the best chance of starting off on the right foot and building a solid foundation for any challenging days ahead.
If you are looking for a natural alternative, Michele Carelse, a Clinical Psychologist and part of the Native Remedies team, gives a brief introduction to Native Remedies® BrightSpark™ and Focus Formula™ products in this video.
With a little planning and organization, you and your child can start the school year on the right foot, building a strong foundation for the remainder of the year.