The end of summer signals many transitions, the largest being a return to school. If you are anything like me and my family, we often spend the first six weeks of our break undoing the schedules a bit, and allowing for more sleep, activities outside, and relaxed mealtimes. This change is often very needed, but by the beginning of August, we begin to adjust back into routines and schedules that transition my kids back to their school. While many kids can jump back into routines with little lead time, I have to give my kids a little longer to adjust.
My method has grown out of trial and error; both as a former teacher, and as a mom to many. Over half my kids have been diagnosed with ADHD, and two have pretty pronounced comorbidities that live alongside their initial diagnoses. In my house, we thrive on routine, and we have learned a few tricks to help my kiddos sharpen their skills to allow for their strengths to shine in a classroom setting, while improving upon their weaker skill sets.
It all begins with the swag.
My kids all pick out a backpack that is durable enough to last two years. I help them find a backpack that will not only hold all their homework, supplies, and lunchboxes, but can withstand being washed in the machine at least once a month. I like to find a pack that has an inner pocket to separate lunches from work, and if at all possible, a front zippered pocket for Book Fair money, or any other small “treasures” kids may accumulate at school. This pack will live by the front door during evenings, in preparation for the next morning. Yes; even in the current environment I use backpacks.
I have the kids pack and keep all their books and organized papers in their packs. It limits how much is sitting out at home after school and gives a beginning and end to a workday. One of the things I instituted once my kids transitioned home was to set a hard and fast rule about setting up and cleaning up. My kids needed to have distinction between their schooling and home. Letting environments bleed over into each other became a silent source of anxiety in everyone – myself included.
We buy all required school supplies in twos, and keep a set at home, in a designated homework area. (Obviously the second set can be stored for a future return to the classroom.) Being prepared eliminates panic when schoolwork is being completed and glue sticks, rulers, or scissors are needed.
Snack Drawers/Baskets and designated snack time.
During a typical schoolyear I use snack baskets in my car to eliminate drive throughs and unhealthy food and financial choices. These options currently serve as a break for me, and I use my kids’ snack time to make phone calls and return emails. Stocking a basket or drawer allows you to let your student grab a snack without you having to oversee it. This allows for problem solving, time management, and some unstructured down time for your student. It also provides for much needed brain breaks.
I did buy my kids’ uniforms this year. We are still very unsure if my kids will be able to return to a classroom, however, my kids are expected to get dressed each day. I know each family is very different, but my kids need to get up and get dressed for school. If they don’t, they don’t associate school with their day. (Trust me; I have tested my belief. It didn’t go well!)
I help each of my children create a daily checklist of tasks and assignments. The simple list not only helps them organize their workstations, but also helps show them the flow of their day. This encourages them to stay focused until their “brain breaks”; and it also gives them visual cues to help with transition. Even my neurotypical children feel more comfortable when knowing what is coming next, and what is expected of them.
My kids know that anything they plan on taking with them the next day must be staged by our front door. This includes backpacks, shoes, socks, bags of uniforms and instruments. No matter how organized a person is, if the tools you need are not by the front door, there is a big chance you will forget them. We also stage clothes for the next day on the ground of the bedroom, in dressing order. My kids don’t come downstairs for breakfast until they are dressed. (Yes, this does mean that some eat breakfast with a dishtowel over the front of them.)
I have created these routines with the notion that keeping a calm environment helps support emerging and evolving executive functioning skills. My kids struggle with anxiety as a comorbidity of ADHD, and I have noticed that simple things like the daily checklists positively affected my more anxious students. Slowly stacking habits over a longer period of time help to not only prepare your student for school, but help you adjust to the pace of the new school year.
About The Author
Rebecca Stora is a former K-12 teacher with a penchant for strong coffee, machine washable clothing and aprons with pockets. She spends her days dreaming of office supply stores and cooking gadgets. When she is not herding children from place to place, she is found perusing Audiobook titles on Amazon.