Back to school and ADHD in children

Back to school and ADHD in children

  • 8 Aug, 2017
  • Lydia Herrera
  • ADHD, ADHD in children, ADHD strategies for kids, Back to School, Parenting an ADD or ADHD Child,

Back to school and ADHD in children don’t always mix well.

When our ADHD son was younger, I always dreaded summer coming to an end.

Yes, having him around all summer was tough …

  • Making sure he had something to keep him busy and out of trouble
  • Trying to limit screen time
  • Monitoring reading for pleasure and some math activities so he didn’t lose the skills he learned the year before
  • Refereeing arguments with his brother or friends
  • Trying to control the snacks he stuffed in his mouth
  • And more!

But the day’s schedule was a little more relaxed and being “on time” wasn’t necessary most days.

Then seeing ‘back-to-school’ newspaper ads would make my stomach churn.

Not because we needed to get some shopping done.

But before long I was going to have to get him out of bed and off to school.  You know, the morning routine that could begin the day with shouts, pouts, and angry feelings.

I had to begin a couple weeks beforehand just to get him weaned off so much screen time so he could get to sleep at a decent hour.  THAT was painful.  (But that’s a story for another day.)

Are you dreading that stuff, too, as summer comes to an end?

Here are some tips to help make the transition a little smoother.


  • Begin at least a week before the first day of school to get a bedtime and morning routine started. Start getting your child to bed earlier each night. Ease into the wake up time by waking your child 15-20 minutes earlier each day.  If your child has been sleeping in really late, begin a couple of weeks before school starts.
  • If your ADHD child loves screen time (iPhone, iPad, video games, computer games) start limiting the time they can play.  Yup, that will be painful, but there’s no getting around it.
  • Set the routine of waking up, getting dressed and eating breakfast. Your child needs to get used to the entire routine so you can get out to the bus stop or in the car and off to school on time.  If you are able to, actually practice by getting in the car and driving to school.  See how long it takes so you know how to schedule the morning.
  • Set up a reward system to help your child earn a small daily reward as an incentive to cooperate and learn the routine.
    • Use a  chart listing the activities in the routine. (With a young child, use pictures)
    • Let your child check off when each activity is completed each morning.  Use colorful markers or stickers for fun.
    • Your child earns a daily reward as he/she meets the goal.  (Be sure your child helps decide on the reward so it’s something he/she will work for … 15 minutes extra screen time?  An extra story at bedtime?  Special dessert?  Favorite meal?) Rewards don’t need to be large or expensive.  Just something he/she wants and that will help gain their cooperation.  Be sure to give the reward each day.  Rewards given right after the goal is met help train the brain to cooperate – it’s a dopamine hit (like getting to the next level on the gaming system).


Your ADHD child will be distracted and hard to keep on track, especially after the summer schedule.  No duh.  So you’ll have to be extra patient, but also very firm and consistent.

Remember #2:

For the first few (or several) days, you will have to remind, help, remind, correct, remind and remind.  Don’t get mad.  Don’t give up.  Be patient and very firm and consistent.

Yeah, yeah, I know …

About now you’re saying to yourself, “I know this stuff … it’s nothing new.”  That may be.  But … are you doing it?

Or you might be thinking, “This isn’t gonna work with my kid.”  Do it anyway.  You may be pleasantly surprised.  Isn’t it worth a try to calm the morning drama?

Bonus Tip:

Don’t forget that you will need to change your schedule, too.  Think about the added activities you’ll have each morning (or evening before).  Making lunches … getting clothes ready … a way to organize school papers … helping with homework.  You may need to get up and get ready for the day earlier so you are organized, too.

So have a reward chart for yourself.

Don’t laugh … rewards help us stay on track so we do what we need to do.  How about a specialty coffee when the routine goes well?  Or some new earrings?  Rewards are a dopamine hit – just like getting to the next level on the gaming system.  Rewards help us stay focused on our goal.  And it feels so good when we earn one!


Have you visited my Facebook page?  Please do so soon, and be sure to “LIKE” my page.  /LydiaHerrera, ADHD Parenting Made Simple.


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