As the summer ends, parents and children alike are getting ready for the next school year, with in-person teaching. Starting school brings both excitement and stress. The challenge that all children and teens will face this year is to get used to the new enhanced health and safety protocols that all schools have in place. For children and teens with ADHD, there is another major challenge. After the “drug holiday” enjoyed by many during the summer, it is time to start taking ADHD medication again and get back to school routines. If you have a child or teenager with ADHD, consider the following tips:
Before the first day of school
Younger children would benefit most to get familiar with the teacher and the classroom before school starts. Take your child to the school grounds. This would help ease the stress experienced during the first day of school. Book an appointment and let the teacher meet and talk to your child, show the environment, whether it is just a new classroom or a new school. You can also get to know about the new safety protocols in place, whether or not a mask will have to be worn all the time, about staying 3 feet apart, and other new policies related to the COVID pandemic.
Practice at home
Take the time to practice at home the new rules required by the school- from using hand sanitizer as needed to wear a mask throughout the day. Since ADHD is associated with an increased risk of allergies, asthma, and eczema, it is best to use comfortable, hypoallergenic masks such as this one . Choose hand sanitizers without synthetic colors or perfumes, which can be found in pharmacies and health food stores. Although there are new rules in place, help your child understand that many things are still the same. For example, attending the school in person, playing sports, practicing in a band, or participating in other activities offered by the school.
Daily routines are essential
Having a daily routine is essential for both children and parents. Children with ADHD need even more of a routine, as it gives a sense of security and stability. This would counteract the negative effects of attention deficit and issues with executive functions associated with ADHD. Daily routines make your child more organized, focused while decreasing stress and anxiety. For best results, routines should be introduced gradually and include different aspects of life- for example, homework, household chores, and personal hygiene tasks. The schedule should be written down on a calendar, with exact times for each task, while still allowing some flexibility for completing the homework, for example. What happens when the child completes these tasks? Offer a reward, which can be a movie or some time spent on the internet, playtime, or give them some money. Parents also benefit from daily routines, as they have work and other commitments that need to be completed.
Fun time should be on the daily list
Set up a specific time each and every day to enjoy some quality time with your child, free from TV, tablets, or cell phones. Make it fun. Take pictures, play games, and find activities that your child truly enjoys. Children can get involved when preparing the meals- for example, they could be in charge of decorating the desert or a salad. All you need are a few pieces of berries or nuts to make a little smiley on the plate. Older children and teenagers may be more drawn to decorate the bedroom.
Pay attention to the home environment
Children feel the stress and anxiety in the environment, although may not always show it. There are many potential triggers – from hearing an argument between parents to increased exposure to media. Social media in particular can have harmful effects. Scientists found an increased prevalence in sleeping problems, loneliness, worry, and dependence in teenagers that correlates with the release of the iPhone a decade ago. Research shows a significant increase in depression and suicidal thoughts in those who spend many hours on electronic devices, especially among teenage girls. ADHD is already associated with depression and anxiety, and exposure to media can further aggravate mental health. For this reason, it is very important to keep a calm, relaxed environment at home. Limit exposure to news on TV and the time spent on the phone or tablets. Children as young as 3-4 years old can learn deep breathing techniques. Later on. Mindfulness meditation and yoga are highly beneficial to ease stress and anxiety.
The many faces of stress and anxiety
There are many ways a child could express stress and anxiety. At times, the only signs may be an upset stomach, irritability, and refusing to do homework, go to school, or socialize with friends. Be aware that the pandemic brought another form of anxiety called COVID-19 anxiety syndrome, which can affect children and older adults, as they try to adjust to the new rules. If your child doesn’t want to go to school or leave home for another reason, it could be from fear of getting the infection. Talk to your child about the ways this infection can be prevented and how many things can be controlled from washing hands to using hand sanitizers.