When my son with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) was in elementary school, going back to school after winter break was tough. It carries all of the hallmarks of back-to-school time but without the nice weather and the excitement of a new school year. School and homework have become a chore rather than a challenge. For those in cold weather states, January means being indoors all day with no end in sight for months. By this point in the school year, children with ADHD might be discouraged and unmotivated.
When January rolls around, many parents are ready for the daily routine to bring back some semblance of order to their lives. But the transition isn’t always easy. The holiday weeks were filled with family visits and celebrations. Daily routines were replaced with late nights and rich food.Children with ADHD often become even more hyperactive during the holiday season, and when school starts again they must finally settle down.
The following are tips I found helpful to help my son with ADHD get through the January doldrums in school:
Review and revise your daily routine. Think back over the first few months of school. Was there adequate time for homework and studying? Did your child struggle to complete work? Were activities too demanding? Did your children get enough sleep each night? The winter break is a good time to review how your schedule is working and make tweaks if necessary.
Put away the decorations. During the last few days of winter break, take time to clean up the house and put away the decorations. While you might think this is a little too soon, it might help your child get back into school mode.
Add variety to your weekends. Being stuck indoors during the cold winter months is often difficult for children with ADHD. They have excessive energy and no way to burn it off. Try to plan one fun family activity during the weekend, for example, indoor parks, museums or if the weather is nice, hiking, biking, or other outdoor activities.
Plan a weekend trip or fun activity for the spring time. This gives your children something to look forward to when it’s cold and nighttime starts at 5 p.m. When school first starts, your child can look forward to Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the holidays. But in January, summer seems very far away.
Encourage your children to spend time outdoors, no matter the weather. Even 15 minutes outdoors might help to relieve restlessness and hyperactivity. Take a family walk or head to the park for a few minutes.
Be prepared to refocus your child’s attention more often. If your child is discouraged or seems unmotivated, you might need to be more hands-on during the first few weeks back at school. Pay attention to how long it is taking to do homework and offer extra encouragement. Consider short-term incentives, such as pizza on Friday if all assignments are handed in, to get them back on track.
Set goals. Sit down with your child and discuss what went right and what wasn’t working during the first half of the school year. Discuss what areas they would like to improve — this can be grades, character, organization, or social skills — and help them set realistic goals. Work with them on breaking each goal into realistic steps they can take to achieve their goals.
Take time to reorganize school supplies. Go through your child’s back pack and folders and clear out old papers and clutter. (Keep any papers in a separate area just in case your child needs them.) Check your stock of school supplies and restock as needed. Make sure your child has pencils, crayons, or whatever supplies might be needed.
Contact your child’s teacher. In many schools, there are still a few weeks left in the semester when school starts up in January. Find out if there are any missing assignments your child needs to hand in before the end of the semester.
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Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.