5 Back To School Tips for Your ADD or ADHD Child


The start of a new school year will be here before we know it—and for some  ADD/ADHD kids and their parents, this time is often associated with added  anxiety and stress. For children and teens with ADD or ADHD, summer can be a  much–needed and most–appreciated break, with many taking a “drug holiday” from  their medications and enjoying the freedom from school schedules and  homework.  Goals  are great, but motivation for achieving goals is enhanced by the anticipation of  rewards.

For many parents of kids with learning or behavioral disabilities, the start  of the school year can feel like an unwelcome rerun of the same old scenes, just  like in the movie Ground Hog Day, where Bill Murray’s character repeats  the same day over and over again. And I know how you feel—I’m the father of a  son with ADHD and I’ve worked with kids who have been diagnosed  with ADD/ADHD for decades. I’m here to tell you that school doesn’t have to  be an exhausting re–tread of last year—rather, think of it as a chance to start  off on the right foot with your child so he can have a more positive, productive  year.

Here are some tips that can make things seem a lot easier and smoother for  parents and kids.

1. Set up a few goals and rewards for the year before school  starts.

Setting some reasonable goals for the school year sets the tone and gives  clear expectations that can lead to a successful academic year. Goals could  revolve around completing assignments and turning them in, getting ready for  school on time, good reports on behavior at school, and getting to bed on time.  Each family will have their own views on what is important; I suggest you meet  as a family to work these out. I think it works well when all children in the  family have their own unique list of goals. You might also have a goal related  to all of the children being able to get along without fighting.

Here’s an idea I want you to take away from this exercise: Goals are great,  but motivation for achieving goals is enhanced by the anticipation of rewards.  People enter athletic contests for fun and personal achievement, but winning a  medal is an additional motivator for many. Look at how members of a championship  professional team cherish those championship rings or gold medals.


Remember that rewards can come in all forms. Staying up late on the weekend  could be a reward for going  to bed on time. Extra time for media use (video game, iPod, computer, TV,  etc) could be a reward for getting homework done well and on time. Whichever  child is ready for school first could earn “shot gun” in the car on the way to school if you’re  driving. Find out what your child feels would motivate him, and be creative.

The above are short–term rewards. Think about a special outing or some other  reward for a good report card each quarter. (Start with average marks. If that  is reached, look for slight improvement from one marking period to the next).  The key is making sure the goal is reasonable and obtainable.

In addition to rewards, provide praise and encouragement. Teach your child  how to feel good about achievement on his or her own. When success is not  achieved, be their coach and teach or re–teach strategies and behaviors that can  increase the likelihood of success. It’s been shown in studies that ADD and ADHD  kids respond much better to positive reinforcement than to criticism, so try to  play to their strengths and catch them being good and remark on it whenever  possible.

2. Agree on a morning routine and afternoon routine before school  starts.

Getting the day off to a good start can set the tone for the day for the  whole family. At a family meeting, discuss when everyone needs to be out the  door. List all the things that need to take place to make this happen, then  figure out how much time each task will take. From there, determine a schedule  and what time each person needs to get out of bed. Once you have a plan, give it  a dry run to see if it is workable. You could use a stopwatch to see if the goal  can be met. Make any necessary adjustments and then post the schedule so  everyone can see it. Consider a once–a–week family activity to celebrate if you  are successful for a week. (If you are successful for a few weeks, you could  space out the celebrations to once a month.)

Other things to consider might include selecting clothes for the next day  before going to bed, making sure everything is in each kid’s backpack and  putting the backpacks right by the door.


Afternoons can include after–school activities, chores, homework, play time,  computer time, reading, evening meal and getting ready for bed. While mornings  are usually the same from day–to–day, you may have to make a schedule that  varies for each day of the week. Again, get input from the family and revise as  needed.

Family mealtime has been found to very beneficial to all members of the  family. Try to schedule the evening meal so everyone can sit around the table  (no TV) and interact with each other. Start using the “roses and thorns” approach to encourage interaction. Each family member shares one positive  experience (rose) and one not so positive experience (thorn) when it is their “turn” to share.

3. Meet with your child’s teacher at the beginning of the new school  year.

Make arrangements to meet with your child’s teacher as soon as possible. If  your child has an IEP or a 504 plan then you can meet to discuss how you can  best work with the teacher to implement the plan in their classroom. If the  school is not aware of your child’s ADD or ADHD, just meet as an interested  parent first.

During the meeting, find out about any major projects or other assignments  that are coming up during the year. Learn about the teacher’s expectation for  homework. Find out how you can communicate with the teacher to keep track of  completed and outstanding assignments. Showing that you are interested and want  to play an active, supportive role can form a relationship that can help keep  your child on track and make it easier to work out problems if the need  arises.

4. Work with your child to set up a study schedule based on what you  learned from the meeting with the teacher.

Once you know what to expect for homework, you can work with your child to  establish a homework routine that works for all concerned. Decide if your child  will have free time before homework. Agree to the time homework should begin and  a schedule for completing daily or weekly assignments for each subject as well  as a plan to complete any larger projects. If your child has a lot of homework,  you may want to schedule some brief breaks in between subjects.


Decide how you will be involved as far as checking for accuracy and  completeness. Develop a system that works for you for keeping track of  assignments and their completion. Some parents use a notebook or have a chart  where they check off each assignment. Also, develop a system to help your child  remember to turn in the completed assignments. It’s not unusual for ADHD kids to  complete assignments and then forget to turn them in.

5. Be sure to schedule “fun time” with your child on a daily  basis.

I know that parents are very busy and spend a lot of time helping and taking  care of their children in addition to working and running a household. I know  that some days you may feel depleted and/or defeated. From time to time your  child most likely feels the same way.

In my 30 years of practice as a child psychologist, I have always recommended  that parents take a few minutes out of the day (10–20) to make time to do  something fun with their children. Find out what your child likes as well as  suggest new things they might come to enjoy as well. Playing a short game,  making something together, reading a story, going for a walk, tossing a ball or  Frisbee in the backyard or at the park—and anything else that works for you and  your child and family—will strengthen the bond. When your children are close in  age, spending time  together is great, but from time–to–time also make time  for one–to–one as well.

The start of the school year doesn’t have to be a time of dread. Anxiety is  our reaction to fear. In this case there is the fear of the unknown (How will  things go?) as well as a fear of the past (Will there be a repeat of previous  school year experiences?). The best way to handle anxiety is to confront the  fearful situation and develop a plan to handle it in a way that will result in a  positive outcome. Then stick to the plan, revising it only it  necessary.


This entry was posted in Blog, For Parents, Ideas for Behavior, Kids, School Issues. Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>