Back to school season is upon us and I don’t know about you- but I’m completely overwhelmed thinking about the overwhelm my children have to deal with. We’re always trying to find ways to thrive in the back to school season with ADHD kids, but it’s not always easy.
Considering I get drained simply by working from home, taking care of my younger two children, driving to their drop offs and pick ups and sports practices- I’m never surprised when they are exhausted too.
They go to school for 6 to 8 hours a day, they then go to practice for 2 to 3 hours, and then are expected to come home and do their homework for an hour or so. Eat, socialize, maybe decompress? Hopefully. But talk about a lot of pressure.
With everything, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time thinking about new ways we can utilize every tool and organization piece we own to create an environment conducive to learning and relaxation.
So fear not- and yes I’m talking to myself too- there are some fantastic tools and organizing items that can make life smoother for both you and your kiddos. So, let’s dive in:
Whiteboards or Chalkboards
Placing a whiteboard or chalkboard in a central area can be a game-changer. Use it for jotting down important reminders, assignments, or upcoming events. Ours doubles as our “refridgerator”. Instead of things going on the fridge that are important, or exciting, they go on our whiteboard. This way, our refridgerator stays clean and clear and if anyone needs to jot down a note near the posted items you can easily do so with the dry erase markers.
Color-coding is the closest thing to a magical technique. We are planning to assign a color to each family member, and use these colors for binders, folders, calendars, and even hooks for backpacks and jackets. We are also planning on utilizing this for bowls and cups. This way each child knows which cup or bowl is theirs and don’t dirty 100 dishes in a day. I know this will help your ADHD kids easily identify their belongings and responsibilities.
Set up designated spots for things like backpacks, shoes, and jackets near the entrance. Hooks, cubbies, or shelves can keep items organized and prevent last-minute searches. It’s also really helpful to help your kids get these spaces set up the night before. Having them pick out their outfit the night before, but also having their backpack ready, their lunch pre-packed, their sport bag ready to go- they all save you time for that ever-struggling-ADHD-morning struggle bus.
Create a designated space for homework that’s free from distractions. Stock it with supplies like pens, paper, and a timer to help your kids stay focused. If you don’t have a designated screen free space for homework, I think there is power in allowing your child to choose where they can focus best to get their homework done. And don’t discount the power of body doubling to help them stay focused.
Timer or Time Tracker
Speaking of, timers are gold! Use a visual timer or an app that helps your ADHD kids manage their time. It can turn tasks into a fun challenge and boost productivity. ADHD kids usually struggle with time blindness. We think 5 minutes is 45, and we feel like 45 is sometimes 5 minutes. Utilizing a timer can help them learn how to pace their work based on actual values of time.
Study Break Tools
ADHD kids might need more frequent breaks while studying. Fidget toys, stress balls, or even a mini trampoline can provide a physical outlet during these breaks. You can also think outside the box and utilize a standing desk. I find that standing up, or even just taking frequent pacing breaks helps me realign and focus again.
Weekly Planning Session
Dedicate some time each week to sit down with your ADHD kids and go over their schedules, assignments, and goals. This can help them feel more in control and prepared for the week ahead.
As an ADHD family we have realized how critical communication and planning is for everyone to feel heard and validated. My teenager is in a time of his life where spending time with his friends is of high importance to him- but he can’t just go anywhere whenever he wants. He has to ask, and me and his dad and my husband have to coordinate his rides, whose paying for who and also vet the chaperones that will be there. Recently we’ve implemented a 48 hour NO rule.
Simply put: if he asks to be able to go do something only 48 hours in advance, the chances of him going are slim to none. We reserve the right to say NO simply because we can’t plan that quickly. Even if we aren’t doing anything else that day.
You might say; Why not consider saying yes though, if you have no other conflicts?
The reason is because often times our “free” days, or days where we have nothing going on, are intentionally kept to help us alleviate the stress of the hustle and bustle from the week. We need those days just as much as we need our days of running and going and accomplishing. We also need days of seeming “nothing” to reset.
If my teenager wants to interrupt this time, and only gives us 48 hours notice, we can say NO without any complaints from him. This helps him learn to consider other’s time as well as recognize that saying NO for no other committment- can still be a valid reason.
Embrace technology! Apps like Trello, Evernote, or Google Calendar can help keep everyone on track. Set reminders for important tasks and activities.
Beyond that, you can also consider utilizing and online coaching platform like Coachbit to help hold your adolescent accountable to more than just you.
Morning and Evening Routines
Develop consistent morning and evening routines. Having a structured start and end to the day can provide a sense of stability for both you and your kids. I talk a little more about this in a previous post, but genuinely routines and small habits are the key to thriving with ADHD.
Remember, my friend, you’re doing an amazing job as a mom, especially with the added layer of ADHD. Embrace the unique strengths that come with it, and don’t hesitate to ask for help when needed. You’re not alone on this journey, and your faith can be a powerful anchor during challenging times. Keep shining that light, and here’s to a successful and organized school year ahead!