Being a parent to a child with ADHD can take a lot of patience, especially during the school year when organization and time management are front and center every day. Although ADHD/ADD manifests differently, disorganization and a lack of time awareness are two common characteristics. When a child with ADHD (or any child) is weak in these skills, they need a lot of help and support to succeed at school. I know, I have one and she was stressing about it last night—back-to-school is just around the corner.
Obviously, as parents, we try not to be critical, but when your kid comes home with a big paper due the next day and s/he hasn’t started it because they don’t remember it was assigned, it can be challenging to stay calm. There are days I find myself nagging or snapping because I am tired of always being on top of all the work. It’s exhausting sometimes. I try to remember that her brain is just a weaker muscle that needs more training and it’s not her fault, but I’m only human. If you ever find yourself struggling to remain calm, here are some essential tips to helping your child get organized and stay organized.
BEFORE SCHOOL GETS UNDERWAY
First of all, make sure you and your child can clear out this past year’s school work before doing anything about this coming year’s. Empty desk drawers and shelves and any notebooks of all the old papers and projects. You don’t have to toss it all, we have bins that we keep a few key school projects from each year and store it in a closet.
Before school starts again, she should choose a quiet spot that is comfortable for her to do homework, has good lighting, is free from distractions and has a large surface to work on. (You may need to double-check the space!)
Make sure your child starts the year with a backpack that has all the right notebooks and binders that the teachers have asked for that year.
Along with that, also stock up on school supplies—and buy more than is necessary so if something gets lost or left at school, your child is covered, and you don’t have to run to a store that night. Don’t forget a three-hole punch and electric pencil sharpener.
Have your child label her materials, so there’s no confusion at school.
If your child has a computer, don’t place it on her desk unless all of his homework is done on it. We found that putting it on her desk cut down substantially her actual working surface area.
MIRRORS, BREAKS AND SNACKS, OH MY
Make it fun—go shopping together for a corkboard and pins to hang up important papers and a calendar.
We also found that having a whiteboard and markers were helpful. Actually, our daughter has huge mirrored glass doors on her closet, so she picked out different colored pens and wrote directly on the mirror. That had a high fun-factor for her, so she used it more.
Allow for movement--breaks are important. A quick dance or a snack is key.
Our kids’ backpacks could get very chaotic, so we also bought a big file container and used color-coded folders to put homework or tests when they were finished. Color codes helped keep the papers categorically organized.
Try emptying a large drawer to store supplies/materials. This way, she knows exactly where to find what she needs, and it also keeps clutter to a minimum and out of sight, which helped me keep my sanity.
Help your child find an easy way to stay on top of due dates, activities, and events. That could be a phone calendar which you can break down projects and use reminders; a monthly—or weekly— printed calendar or the whiteboard/mirror. Whatever comes more naturally her because you want her to take ownership of her work and schedule.
Help your child break down projects and longer assignments into smaller, bite-size pieces. If memorizing is an issue, there are some great apps and easy ways to make flashcards to help her study for tests.
If your child still seems to have a messy backpack, desk or room find a time to help her go through and organize using all the supplies you have—or find other ones that work better for her. Maybe find a day each month or week for you both to sit and organize.
Encourage your child to put her backpack together each night before bed. That way, there is less scrambling in the morning, when time management comes into play, and tempers can be quickly raised.
Last, but definitely not least, reach out to your kid’s teachers to let them know of any potential stumbling blocks. Perhaps one notebook or planner can be dedicated to writing down homework assignments that the teacher (and you at night) can check to ensure it’s all written down correctly. If your child has an IEP or classroom accommodations, the teachers or a counselor will work closely with you to set up the many areas where the school can help.