My teenage boys have no set sleep schedule in the summer. It’s the only time of the year they go to bed and wake up on their own time. So yes, that can often mean after midnight and noon…neither which are conducive for a healthy school schedule.
So I use this tip every year to get them ready for that 6:45am back to school wake up call.
It’s quickly approaching that time of year: Back to School is upon us. If you’re anything like me, this time of year feels like a fresh start for many things: planning, organizing, cooking, goal setting and routines. Perhaps it means getting the workspace in your home ready; maybe clearing out closets for the impending school year. It may be planning your child’s lunch and keeping to a new schedule; or just completing whatever shopping is needed, then sending your children off after a long summer!
For those of you who have been faithful readers and followers (thank you!!!!!), you know I am a huge advocate for breaking things down, prioritizing to do lists, and streamlining processes! The overall goal: a stress free back to school month. Yes, it can happen!
Here are some simple, stress free Back to School tips!
School sleep cycle – 2 weeks before school starts, have your child go to bed 15 minutes earlier each night until they are on their school sleep schedule. If they are late sleepers in the morning (like mine), wake them 30 minutes earlier each day until the first day of school so they are able to wake up on their normal schedule.
School supply shopping – Plan ahead of time and think color coding for subjects, meaning one subject would have the same color folder, binder, etc. For teens, this is a great opportunity for life skills! Give them their lists and set them free in the store with their own cart. Let them choose their supplies and have them be mindful of sales, prices, quality, functionality, etc. For younger children, save yourself some mental stress and shop for one child at a time, one list at a time.
Backpacks – Definitely allow your child to choose. Explain what’s important in selection: quality, function, size, durability, pattern. Lands’ End has all sizes of backpacks (by height of child) for all kinds of needs and you can personalize them as well. They are super durable and last forever!
Lunches – If you pack lunches, plan a weekly calendar with your child and expand this over a month to streamline it. This way, every week, the grocery list is simple, the same and you can save it!
Planners – If your child uses a non-electronic planner, the one I highly highly recommend is the Order Out of Chaos academic planner. It has been lauded for many awards and is the best academic planner on the market. I even created a bunch of videos to show why I love it – you can find them on my Instagram or Facebook Page!
Clothing/uniforms – Set budgets and start looking for sales. I’m not going to touch shopping ideas and websites as it’s a very personal choice! Sales normally begin at the end of July/Early August so keep an eye out.
Haircuts – Schedule your appointments during the first week in August. Hairstylists will be very busy mid to late August, so make sure you get an appointment!
School website – Check websites for any activities you can put on your calendar before school starts so you have an idea of the week/month at a glance for your children and family. Start marking this in all the appropriate calendars and begin getting your schedules organized and communicated.
Summer reading – If your children haven’t been reading over the summer, have them start reading in August. Check out library books and begin getting them in the routine of quiet time, activating their memory, focusing on the words and charging their brains for the workload ahead.
Math – I know…I know… BUT get your children doing 20-30 minutes of math a day for the last few weeks of summer. Some ideas: If you haven’t thrown out the work from last year, you can re-create quizzes, tests and worksheets from these; math activity books from any bookstore or educational store; math friendly apps or find printable worksheets online. Our children lose working memory over the summer when they are not actively engaged with math. Allow them a seamless transition for math and have them work each day (20-30 minutes) for a few weeks leading up to the first day of school.
I’d love to hear your ideas on how you make this transition as stress-free as possible! Comment below.
With Much GrADDitude (and a fun back to school month!),
I’m a huge advocate for balance in all areas of life. There are many parts to ADHD management that, added all together, can create a well balanced plan for clients. Exercise, coaching, diet, supplements, medication, and meditation are all key factors in overall ADHD optimal success.
I’m super aware of the multitude of options in managing the symptoms of ADHD. The majority of my clients use medication for help. Medication fulfills one checked box of ADHD management, but, as a whole, the overall treatment is multi-faceted. You can take all the medication you’d like, but it may not necessarily help you manage your time after school or your workload or your project deadlines, or even how to plan your day. You’ll need additional strategies for success. To give you a little insight: just like one friend can’t fulfill all of our wishlist categories of a perfect BFF, nor can medication be the one and only answer for all things ADHD. We have to look at the whole package.
Natural Strategies for ADHD
One of the areas of balance I am a huge advocate of is supplements and diet. No eye rolling here, please! Maybe you’d like to decrease or eventually come off your meds altogether? There are key supplements that support optimum brain function and are proven to aid in the improvement of ADHD symptoms. With strategies and natural alternatives, coming off meds or decreasing them could be a high probability for some.
Here are the 3 primary supplements that support healthy brain function, mood and impulsivity in the brain.
Omega 3: One of the best vitamins to help support brain health and keep our chemical neurotransmitters functioning is Omega 3. Just like oil is to a car, so is Omega 3 to our brain. It supports mental clarity (minimizes brain fog), helps keep all the “highways” in the brain running smoothly, and helps with overall concentration and mood.
Zinc:Zinc helps reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity. Zinc also helps regulate the function of the neurotransmitter, dopamine, which, supports the feelings of pleasure and rewards.
Food sources: Red meat, shellfish (oysters, crab and shrimp), chickpeas, lentils, beans (kidney, garbanzo beans), seeds (pumpkin, sesame), nuts (almonds, pine nuts, peanuts), eggs, milk, cheese, whole grains (quinoa, rice, wheat), dark chocolate
Magnesium and B6: Magnesium and B6 are essential for overall brain function because they help the binding of neurotransmitters. Symptoms from a deficiency of magnesium include irritability, difficulty with concentration, insomnia, depression, and anxiety.
Not liking the food source options above? Got Picky Eaters? Neba Health has all 3 supplements in liquid form for children and is a great resource.
I would be utterly remiss not mention overall diet. Friends, anything natural (meaning from the ground or an animal), with bright and shiny colors – eat!
Protein is a must for ADHD’ers.
Fruits (especially blueberries, blackberries), vegetables, eggs and meat – offer your children something bright and shiny every meal!
MINIMIZE anything in a box: processed, with food dyes.
And yes, I’m going to say this…MINIMIZE (or totally eliminate – ha!) SUGAR. Nothing good comes from lots of sugar. A child with ADHD already struggles with impulsivity, inattention and hyperactivity – why are you bringing food into the home to fuel the fire here? Yes, you are adding fuel to the fire of ADHD and bringing out the worst aspects of ADHD when sugar (candies, breakfast cereals, food dyes, sugary drinks, etc) is part of your child’s diet.
Remember: who is buying the groceries? There are plenty of other alternatives that will fill up your child! Have the discipline in the grocery store to walk past all this stuff that is toxic for your child. If you need help with snacks, here’s a great article that will help!
With Much GrADDitude, (and healthy brains and body),
I love trampolines. I love watching children jump, roll, flip, laugh, giggle and smile whilst playing. They are my preferred choice of activity for our boys and if space allotted, I think every house should have one (or even two if there’s space for both). I love how multifunctional they are: yes – they are more than entertainment for our children. They are a hidden gem of ADHD hacks!
Trampolines are one of the best forms of entertainment and activities for children. They can be a study tool, an excellent means of exercise to release dopamine and they help with proprioception (awareness of where your body is in relation to the environment) in the body…all wrapped up in…well…can’t really wrap it up, but all presented in the round mass it is! Besides the obvious “fun” part of jumping and twisting and turning and falling, it’s total entertainment for those participating!
How Trampolines Help Those with ADHD
It’s been said that one hour of hardcore exercise (or trampoline jumping) is the equivalent of 3-4 hours of a focused mind (no brain fog): think homework, projects, studying for exams and reading comprehension. What would it look like if your child were able to sit and do homework for 2-3 hours without focus challenges? If an hour of exercise seems too long, what about 25 minutes? That’s easy for a child who loves to jump and fall and twist and maybe even shoot hoops on their trampoline.
Now let’s “jump” further along (all the pun intended here!): What about merging the two? A great study hack and tool is using the trampoline to study – how much more fun would homework and studying be for spelling words, memorization of math facts, history facts, etc, giving your children verbal quizzes while they are jumping all around – what about throwing a ball while they tell you definitions? How would studying look for them if the trampoline was perceived not only as a source to get the wiggles out, but also as a study tool and concentration? Maybe even allowing them to sit and do homework on the trampoline?
No, you don’t need go and buy a big one although they won’t break the bank! The one we own can easily be moved from room to room. And, no, you don’t necessarily need a trampoline, BUT, what ADHD’ers need to help with after school focus when the meds wear off is EXERCISE to trigger the dopamine which helps to activate the frontal lobe. So, whether it’s a trampoline, or jumping jacks, or running, or basketball, or Parkour EXERCISE, EXERCISE, EXERCISE after school, find something – anything – that your children will engage with exercise -wise! Why? Your body needs it to decompress from the day and your brain needs it to help better support its function of helping you focus.
Hello Summer, it is SOOOO lovely to see you. Happy End of School, everyone – you made it through! I hope you all finished strong!
As a parent, the month of May has slowly become the one month that I equally like/dislike. All the end of school parties, gifts for teachers (most deserving of our time, effort and money ever!), class events, trips, concerts, friends getting tired of friends, trying to keep your kids on track and finish strong and respectable, end of year grades, exams, projects, etc. it all builds up to a rather large to do list that continues to build! Coupled with longer days when the weather is so tempting and everyone wants to be off schedule, stay up late and blow off all educational responsibilities! Yes, I said it… by this time of the year, if it’s not getting through, it’s probably not going too!
Who else let’s stuff slide academic wise with their children? (my hand is raised high!) It’s OK!
It’s been a long year – the end is in sight and May is tough, people! It’s slowly become worse (don’t hate me when I say this because you all know what I mean) than December!
So, with much abated breathe, I am always, always happy for the lovely month of May for its weather (ok, the golf tournaments, the NHL Finals – GO CANES – are the real reasons), the stunning greenery and sunshine (wait, I live in NC and it’s normally sunny here anyways, but you know what I mean!), and the end of a structured school year. Hallelujah, another year in the books – you did it! BREATHE. BYE BYE May.
Hello June. Now what? What’s your plan? Remember that schedule you (and I) so desperately wanted to come to a screeching halt? Well, that schedule and structure are critical for ADHD’ers to thrive. A break of schedule/routine can be equally healthy and disastrous. Healthy meaning it is good to come down off an intense year of school and give your brain a bit of a break and recharge. Disastrous meaning no plans, no structure allows too much free will and this amounts to time sucks of activities, and unaccountability.
ADHD’ers need predictability so they can manage the emotional impulses of ADHD. Having a routine in place will allow them to succeed with chores, morning and bedtime routines, and overall planning of the day – basically tapping into their executive functioning. When this is not used or activated, it sets up for meltdowns, impulse control issues, transition challenges, etc.
ADHD’ers need help with self-control – this is a huge challenge for them!
This is why Summer is lovely to have a break from academics, but your child still needs structure.
How will you create this with them? Notice I said WITH them? Include them in their summer schedule!
Tips for a Successful ADHD Summer
Ask them what they’d like to work on over the summer. It’s a great time to brush up on any skills needing to be fine-tuned. Maybe they need a tutor in Math or English or maybe working with an ADHD Coach (I know someone – hmm!) would help build their confidence before going back to school).
Set a weekly schedule so they have a week at a glance.
Set a daily “flexible” schedule, so they have an idea of what all will be happening that day and what all is expected of them
Decide on a chores list each day. Find out how they want it: where does it need to be posted – on a post-it, texted to them? And decide together when the chores need to be done each day.
Designate how many hours they are allowed on electronics per day.
Do they have all the tools they need to succeed in managing their time?
Athletic work-outs? Practices, etc?
Think about service/volunteer/camps/church group outings. Summer is a great time to spend giving your time and resources to others
How often do they want to see their friends? Have them plan this.
If you are going on a summer vacation, have them plan what they’d like to do there and what they want to explore.
Always leave a block of time for “free time” on the calendar each day.
Having a summer “routine” will provide the best of both worlds for your child: a flexible schedule with expectations for them to meet. This will allow them to be successful in their time management, and accountability and will help them maintain structure each day during the long dog days of summer.
With Much GrADDitude, (and a lovely first month of Summer),
It’s a joy to be able to coach and partner with so many awesome parents, adults and teens out there who are so committed to being better versions of themselves and their loved ones with ADHD. While I am confident my clients always take away something from my sessions, I know I am the one who is blessed when I hang up the phone or walk out of the room after a session ends. How do I know this? Because it’s a joy working with clients who are so teachable and open to self-discovery.
In the beginning of my coaching relationship, my clients quickly learn they need to take notes. There are many times I begin virtual sessions (by phone), and I’ve gotten so used to the flow of the conversation, I can always tell if the client is taking notes or not. In a normal session, we cover a great bit of strategies, facts on ADHD and about halfway through, I always ask, “How are you remembering this?” As the coach, I am writing all the pertinent information I need on my end, but my clients may not be because they are engrossed in the conversation and completely focused. (Shout out to hyper-focus ADHD!) They quickly realize they need to take notes!
This is a great way for me to learn about them, too, as we all have our own systems, styles and tools that work for us. ADHD and working memory are not the best of friends, if I may. In my first session with clients, they will forget or not even be prepared to write down goals or points as we are engaging in conversation. Inevitably they ask me to repeat what I just said and I will (yes I am a meticulous note taker for that exact reason), BUT I will only allow this one time.
Part of the coaching process is for the client to become more accountable and put systems in place that work for them to succeed. I have clients who have an ADHD spiral notebook where everything about our sessions and ADHD is written. Others have planners or a scheduler where they write notes/goals and just need the “bare bones” of our sessions to write what they’ve chosen to work on. I have students who use all kinds of apps and timers to help them stay on task and write/type things down.
But when I ask the client, “How will you remember this?” it’s not just the next week’s goals I need them to remember. I know by asking this, I’m also asking a very important life long successful strategy question. Why? Because it doesn’t stop with our sessions. ADHD’ers are constantly needing to be reminded of things…every day. Helping them figure out what works best for them is crucial to their success in business, family life, social life and their confidence. They need to know what system works best for them. AND it may be different based on their environments. What works well for our client sessions may not be the best for remembering details about a work meeting or what their children need for afterschool events.
Point being, they need to figure out how they will remember pertinent things every day to keep them successful. Part of what I do as a coach is tie that one question into our present coaching session and then bring it full circle to how they can use it in their everyday life.
Parents, you can ask this one simple question too! It is a great means of holding your teen responsible and accountable for homework, schedules, chores, etc. Try it and see what they chose as their tool for remembering – they may surprise you!
I never knew what fear felt like before I became a parent.
While my faith grounds me and I know from a biblical perspective, I am not to live in fear as it’s a barrier to my relationship with God, I do have it.
One of my strongest fears ties into one of my son’s greatest strengths…isn’t that ironic? My parent “fear” is losing my child. Meaning, he will get lost and I’ll never see him again. (Gosh, I am feeling utterly vulnerable sharing this!) Maybe because it’s happened at least 5 times since he’s been born. The wandering in crowds seems to own us, even though I’d consider myself an amazing hyper alert and vigilant mom when it comes to crowds and my children. Case in point, even the most vigilant parents can lose their child in the blink of an eye if they don’t have their eyes on them. Most recently this past summer and I’m sharing it because this last time I learned something about my son when he got lost. Something I didn’t realize about him.
It was one of the first weekends of summer and we made the trip to our local amusement park. We were all obviously giddy with anticipation for the day ahead, but when we got out of the car, we made sure to stop and put on sunscreen. We could hear the people screaming whilst riding the rides and music was playing throughout the park. Our boys were looking around at the massive roller coasters and all the swirly whirly metal rides around the park, excited to join in the fun.
Our day progressed, but before long the sky fell black, thunder rolled and the sky opened up. It was an all out Southern summer thunderstorm. We all bolted for the car along with hundreds of others exiting the park. It was raining so hard I could barely see 3 ft ahead of me. Before long, we made it to the truck, except my son. He was nowhere to be found. In the running and confusion, he became lost. And we had lost sight of him.
Words really can’t explain how I felt, as I went from 0-100 in half a second thinking I’d never see him again. I immediately began screaming for him in the parking lot, as if anyone could hear me over the roaring of the storm. I ran back and forth from the entrance of the park to the truck, up and down the parking lots to no avail. There was a woman who even stopped and asked me what he was wearing and I described him and she ran the opposite direction in search of him. I saw her 2 more times with no success. (I would have loved to give her a hug and thank her for caring about my son, but I never saw her after that moment.)
They say, when in utter panic mode, a minute is like an hour, right? I believe about 20 minutes elapsed, which literally felt like a day, until I heard our oldest son screaming for me somewhere nearby. My youngest had found his way back to the car. I cannot tell you the relief I had. Have you ever not been able to control your sobbing and crying? What a moment. Praise the Lord.
Fast forward to the evening when I was able to converse and talk about it without crying. My son told me that in the midst of all the running and crowds of people, he ran straight past our row and almost to the end of the parking lot. After walking down some rows of cars, he realized he wasn’t where he was supposed to be. Instead of panicking, he stopped and tuned into his senses. He remembered what part – literally the part – of the roller coaster he was looking at when we were putting sunscreen on. He knew he had to backtrack to get to that view of the roller coaster, and there he would find the truck.
And he did. Did he realize he was lost and we weren’t with him? Yes. Was he scared? A little bit – his senses were heightened and he was highly alert – he even said it was sorta exciting. Of course he did – he had his own little unplanned adventure! He was great under pressure and kept control of himself in that situation (which I applauded him for months after). When I asked him if he was worried about finding his way back, he said, “Momma, I’ll always find my way back to you.”
I debated whether to share this story due to how emotional it is for me thinking about the times he’s been lost. I literally have a pit in my stomach writing this. However it’s important to continue to bring awareness to an awesome strength of ADHD. Be it visual, auditory, smell, touch, taste, those with ADHD have heightened senses. My son is so spot on with directions because of what he sees outside and how he associates buildings, signs, houses, trees, stores and roads and connects them all together.
Which leads me to think ahead to when he drives and when your teens begin driving. It’s never too early to test your teen on their surroundings. Ask them what they see, notice, hear, smell. It will be challenging enough when they are behind the wheel. Why not engage them when you are driving now and see if they know how to get back and forth to the school, grocery, their friends’ houses? It’s a great way to gauge how in touch they are with their surroundings. Who knows, they may surprise you and find their way back home, all by themselves. Mine certainly did.
With an Abundant amount of GrADDitude for my son’s senses,
Why does it feel like some mornings it takes an act of God to get your children out the door?
Take the stress out of mornings with some very simple steps which will make a smooth transition from bed to bus stop!
Pack backpacks the night before. Once homework is done, place everything you need for the next day in it. There should be a “set” place for them, too! This might sound silly, but how many times has your backpack grown legs and moved from one room to another unbeknownst to you and all of a sudden there’s an extra 3 minutes (and high stress) looking for the backpack? Pick a spot!
Prepare lunch boxes/snacks the night before. Parents, this is for you! You have enough on your plate (literally) in the mornings, don’t add to it. Prepare all of this the night before so you and your child can grab and go in the morning.
Breakfast is only served when your child is fully dressed. MEANING: once your child leaves their bedroom in the morning, they do not return! That means socks and shoes are on before they eat. How much time is wasted putting socks and shoes on right before you walk out the door? It will stop the yelling, arguments and stress. Enforce this and it will become a habit quite quickly…and you will have more peace in the mornings.
After eating, the last thing they do is brush their teeth. Good hygiene is important and that happens after they eat! Yes, this may mean moving toothbrushes to a place closer to the kitchen and yes, buying a second set of them, but it is worth it! The goal is to not have them return to their rooms or upstairs once they come to the kitchen. Think about it like this – you are minimizing distractions!
Always have a timer in the kitchen. I am a huge fan of the Time Timer. It shows time elapsing – set it when they begin eating breakfast so they know how much time they have. When it goes off, that’s when it’s time to leave the table and brush their teeth. If you need to set it again for the teeth brushing, you can do this as well, but I’m not sure how many children and teens are brushing more than 3 minutes!
Once teeth are brushed, they head to the door, grab their backpack, lunch box and off they go!
With Much GrADDitude (and more peace in the mornings!),
No, I’m not referring to a washing machine and dryer (although I do love laundry!)!
I’m referring to the importance of front-loading our children when we know they will be subjected to a situation where you (and they) know it may not set up well for them. Where you know they will be anxious, nervous, shut down, clingy or just flat out have a meltdown…specifically social situations.
I work with parents who need assistance with social situations and their child with ADHD. Situations where there are a lot of people, noise, tons of friends around, babysitters coming over when parents have a date night, going to a new school, or just knowing a certain situation will not bode well for your loved one.
My older son reminded me of the importance of this parenting strategy. Our family is in the midst of a move to a small town just under 2 hours from our current home. He recently shared how uncomfortable it is to make new friends (at least for him as he is my not-so-social- guy-who-really-wants-to-be). That led me to realize how we have been dealing with our imminent move: I’ve been front-loading our boys for the past 6 months.
What I mean by this is simple…I know we have an uncomfortable situation quickly approaching and I have been talking through scenarios with them: new home, new school, new church, new routine, sharing a room, new schedules, etc.
And, it hasn’t happened all at once either. We’ve known about this move for a little under a year and we have gradually introduced certain scenarios that may or may not be favorable when we move. They’ve been involved in choosing their school (they both decided on the same school, phew!), participating in reconstructing their room and space where we are moving. We’ve walked through beginning at a new church and establishing new friends (this is their biggest fear). You get the point. We have been engaging in how things will be different and we’ve also allowed and asked the really hard questions:
“What will be hardest about moving?”
“What would make this an easy move and transition for you?”
“What do you need to happen before we leave?”
By giving them a chance to put words to their feelings, it validates, calms, acknowledges and accepts where they are.
Friends, this strategy can and should be used in every situation you know could be uncomfortable for your ADHD child.
It’s a simple four step process:
Talk through the scenario
Ask what they need
Remind them of a time when they handled it well
Give them time to process and adjust their thinking around the event that is not favorable to them
..walk through it all (as many times as needed within reason!) so there are no obstacles until they are in a better place and not fearful or in shut down mode. It is a critical step in their self-advocacy when they can verbalize what they need to be more comfortable. This is what you ultimately want for them: self-control, independence and self-awareness to handle the situations that may not set up well for them.
Who knows, just talking through and front-loading may turn out to be the absolute best situation where they are able to participate in the event that once caused great stress and angst!