By Sophia Auld
Returning to school after summer break can mean saying goodbye to relaxing days and hello to stricter routines. The school year also brings a range of additional tasks, like making lunches, coordinating family schedules and helping with homework. However, this doesn’t have to mean a load of extra stress. Following these simple strategies can help the school term run smoothly for your whole family.
1. Speedy school lunches
Nobody enjoys scrounging through the fridge and pantry on school mornings in a last-ditch effort to rustle up lunch. Instead, set aside a few hours on weekends to prepare food you can freeze and pull out on weekdays. If sandwiches are your go-to, steer away from fillings that go soggy, like tomato, lettuce and cucumber. Aside from staples like peanut butter and jelly, sandwich fillings that freeze well include:
- Ham and cheese
- Chicken and pesto or cream cheese
- Two layers of sliced meat (such as beef or lamb) with chutney or pickles in between
- Meatballs or chicken schnitzel with cheese (great for toasting!)
- Tuna with cream cheese, grated carrot or sweetcorn (on buttered bread)
You can also cook and freeze a variety of foods. Try:
- Sweet or savory muffins and slices
- Pizza, quiches and frittatas
- Cakes and cookies
- Muesli bars
You can also make snacks without buying costly single serves by doling out portions from full-size containers into kid-sized ones. This works well with things like yogurt, cheese (cut into sticks), chips and crackers.
2. Streamlined scheduling
Make sure you know exactly who needs to be where and when with a whole family calendar. A paper version stuck on the refrigerator (or some other commonly used area) is best for this purpose. Use stickers and color to save space and aid visual scanning. You could choose different colored markers to highlight activities for each family member. Find stickers related to your children’s activities, such as balls for soccer practice, instruments for music lessons, and teeth for the dentist. If your child sees a therapist, ask your therapist if they have stickers you can use. Get the kids involved in putting things on the calendar.
Giving your kids their own planners can also help them take greater responsibility over their schedules. Set theirs up like yours, with extra things they need to track personally, such as assignment due dates.
3. Spare me
Some children with ADHD are prone to losing or misplacing items, including things like school shoes and notebooks. This can create a lot of last-minute stress on a school morning.
A fix? “Buy lots of supplies now and store them where you can easily find them later,” Jennifer Jones, Ph.D., CEO and founder of LearnGarden and author of The Three P’s of Parenting, writes in ADDitude magazine. “To get a sense of the projects your child will need supplies for, talk with the parent of a child who’s one grade ahead of yours.”
Some important items you might like to keep spares of include:
- Stationery items like notebooks, pens and pencils
- Eyeglasses if your child wears them (when they get a new prescription, keep the old pair as a back-up)
- A jacket, sweater and bag suitable for school
- School and sports shoes and socks
- Device charger, USB drive
- House keys
And you don’t have to break the bank buying spares. Look for them in second hand shops and yard sales. If your child wears a uniform, check if the school has an arrangement for buying and selling second-hand uniforms.
4. Place perfect
Mornings can quickly go from calm to chaos when kids are scrambling to find books, shoes, keys and bags. Decrease the mayhem by having a special place for each item. You can make the “place for everything” rule easier by using fun storage solutions. For example, give each child a brightly colored tub, or their own space in a cube unit or shelf. And allow them to paint or decorate it to their taste.
5. Routine procedures
“Kids need structure, and children with attention deficit need even more,” Peter Jaksa, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and former president of the Attention Deficit Disorder Association, writes in ADDitude magazine. “Reliable schedules … make a tremendous difference in setting expectations, building good habits, and improving ADD-related behavior.”
Establishing consistent times for waking, meals, homework, chores and bedtime takes the stress out of deciding what to do and when each day. Timers can help your kids stay on task for set periods. Allowing some flexibility is also important, so you don’t get stressed if things like getting stuck late at an appointment throw off your routine. Just pick up where you can.
6. Share the load
Ferrying your kids around can be a huge drain on time and energy. Try to find some other people you trust who can share that with you. Other parents might be happy to swap school and sports runs. You might also have networks you can tap into, such as your extended family or church.
7. Reframe your thinking
We all have days where nothing seems to go right. The car won’t start. The baby throws up on your shirt as you walk out the door. You forgot to pay the power bill.
Keep things in perspective. “Sometimes ‘bad’ is just a frame of mind, which can be helped with a little inspiration and perspective on living with ADHD,” ADDitude editors note in their piece — “Your Day is Getting Better — Starting Now.”
Remember the big picture: You’re raising an amazing human, and the fact you care is a massive step in the right direction.