Everyone feels anxious on the first day of school. Even kids who love school and look forward to the first day feel some butterflies in their stomach as they wonder what their new teacher and classmates will be like. For kids with ADHD who have struggled with school in the past and whose relationships with classmates have often been challenging, the back to school jitters that they experience are often more intense than most. Even if they don’t talk about feeling nervous, the anxiety will still be there and may show up in other ways – like uncharacteristic irritability, difficulty sleeping, and complaints about stomachs and headaches. As a parent it can be hard to know how to help your child cope with his or her anxiety. In addition to strategies that help with everyday anxiety, like taking deep breaths or distracting yourself from anxious thoughts, there are a few important things you can do to help your child cope leading up to the first day of school.
Many parents consider having their child take a break from his or her ADHD medication over the summer. Research shows that there are in fact some benefits to summer medication holidays for children who take ADHD medication. For kids who experience medication side effects, such as insomnia, decreased appetite, or slowed physical growth, a summer break can provide relief and chance to catch up in weight gain and growth. Summer medication breaks also give parents an opportunity to observe their child’s ADHD symptoms when his or her medication is not in effect.
Summer gives kids with ADHD the opportunity to take a break from the pressure and hard work that comes with staying focused and on-task all day long. They have more time to explore their creative side, burn off their extra energy while playing outside, and become absorbed in activities that they truly enjoy.
When you have ADHD, keeping your mind focused and engaged while you’re studying isn’t always easy. An ADHD brain thrives on novelty, mental challenges, and exciting visuals – three things that the act of memorizing rote information rarely provides. Fortunately there are a few dynamic online study tools that can make typical study strategies more engaging and effective. They allow you to move past the basics of rereading material or reviewing your notes by engaging your mind through active learning techniques that will take your study methods to the next level.
With final exams quickly approaching, now is the time to put together a rock-solid test-taking plan that will help you reach your full potential this year. All of the usual final exam advice still holds true: study hard, get a good night’s sleep, eat a high protein breakfast, and keep your stress levels down by making time for exercise and time with friends. This year, consider also adding some inspiring pre-exam music to your finals plan to help take your exam performance to the next level.
Getting kids the help they need as early as possible will set them up for success later in life. There are numerous early intervention programs available for kids who fail to meet their developmental milestones on time or struggle with speech problems. But when it comes to behaviors related to ADHD, like impulsivity, hyperactivity, and difficulty paying attention in young children it can be harder to identify the source of the problem, and harder to know how to help. How soon is too soon to start thinking about an ADHD diagnosis, and when can you start to intervene?
Your child says that listening to music or watching television helps him or her concentrate when doing schoolwork. But is he or she right? Sitting down to concentrate on homework is hard when you have ADHD. Not surprisingly, kids, teens, and their parents are always on the lookout for ways to make homework less painful. For many families that I’ve worked with, arguments often erupt over whether or not the television, music, or other noise should be allowed during homework. Desperate to help their kids get their work done, many parents are willing to make more concessions during homework time than they would for other activities and chores throughout the day. But do things like television and music really help kids with ADHD concentrate? Or are they simply fun distractions? Let’s look at what the science has to say.
All kids need time each week to engage in creative play outside of their structured extracurricular activities. It’s during this time that kids develop important social skills, problem solving strategies, and independence while fueling their imagination and creativity. Even just 20 minutes a day during the week coupled with a few longer stretches of time on weekends can make a big difference. For many parents of kids with ADHD, who often rely on highly structured activities to help manage ADHD symptoms, however, the idea of allowing time for play without rules, structure, or adult supervision can seem intimidating. Ideas of free play quickly spiral into visions of a “free for all” filled with impulsive behavior and complaints about boredom! Fortunately, with a little planning and a modest amount of structure and support it is possible to create successful free play opportunities for even the most active kids with ADHD.
Childhood today is very different from childhood 30 years ago, when time outside of school was spent playing in the neighborhood, often unsupervised and undirected by adults. Today kids and teens typically attend a host of extracurricular activities after school, with little free time in-between. Do a quick search online for “overscheduled kids” and you’ll find hundreds of articles warning parents about the perils of enrolling kids in too many extracurricular activities. These articles typically highlight the negative effects that too little free time can have on creativity, imaginative play, and social development. What these articles rarely discuss, however, is the reality faced by many parents who frequently work during the after school hours and need these activities to keep their children and teens safe and occupied. Parents of children and teens with ADHD face another reality as well: unstructured and unsupervised downtime often quickly leads to impulsive and sometimes unsafe behavior as well as sibling arguments. As a result, unstructured time often ends with a punishment for bad behavior, or is simply replaced by screen time in an effort to keep the peace at home.
Teenagers might not be faced with many of the situations that adults consider to be stressful, like financial concerns, parenting challenges, long commutes, a demanding career, job instability, etc., but the middle and high school years come with a set of challenges that can be highly stressful in their own right. In fact, in a 2013 American Psychological Association survey teenagers reported experiencing unhealthy levels of stress at higher rates than adults. Teens cited school as the number one source of stress, followed by worries about getting into a good college and figuring out what to do after high school. Other sources of stress included social pressures, worrying about family members, and worrying about family finances. When a teen has ADHD, their risk for unhealthy levels of stress goes up even higher. ADHD symptoms make school more challenging, both during the school day and in the evening during homework time. Friendships and dating can be harder with ADHD too, especially for teens that have difficulty picking up on subtle social cues or who tend to impulsively say things that they regret later. If your teenager is like most, then his or her afterschool and weekend schedule is packed with extracurricular activities that leave little room for down time. The time management challenges and impulsivity that comes with ADHD make it much more likely that a teen will get in over his or her head with too much to do and too little time. But like most teens, those with ADHD may not recognize that they have bitten off more than they can chew. They don’t necessarily know that their stress level is higher than it should be, or that they can ask for help.