ADHD and kindergarten can feel like a significant milestone in many households. With young children with ADHD, management of symptoms at home might work fairly well. The prospect of sending your child off to school, though, might raise new concerns and anxieties.
After all, kindergarten introduces a whole new environment to your child. For many kids, kindergarten involves the first substantial time away from the home and their parents. Furthermore, kindergarten typically puts a child into their first distinct social group. They find themselves in a community of their peers away from their parents. Not only that, they have to manage this new social environment under the direction of a new adult authority.
With all this new unexplored territory, it’s safe to say that ADHD and kindergarten can present some challenges. Fortunately, you don’t have to face those challenges alone. We believe that like most anything in life, you can help your child succeed starting the first day of school just with planning and preparation.
In this post, we want to talk through some of that preparation. Finding success with ADHD and kindergarten involves several layers of strategies. Let’s look closer at each of these layers and how you can best find success within each of them.
Strategies Before You Get to the Classroom
The first day of kindergarten is a huge step for most households. When your child possibly has ADHD, this milestone can mean significantly more. While being prepared on the first day is important, we actually believe success starts long before then. To find success with ADHD and kindergarten, you need to first consider strategies before you get to the classroom. Careful planning and preparation can make the difference between an exciting day and a disaster. Let’s look at some of your best strategies for before the school year begins.
Start Talking to the Teacher and Administration
We’ve said this before, communicating with your child’s teacher about ADHD is absolutely pivotal. Many teachers, especially with the growing prevalence of ADHD, have some training or experience with ADHD. Even if they don’t, more likely than not the school’s administration has resources on managing ADHD. None of this can provide much benefit, though, if your teacher doesn’t know about your child’s ADHD.
To make starting kindergarten easier, talk to your child’s teacher in advance. Talk to them on the phone, but also schedule a meeting face to face. Ideally that meeting would also involve your child so that they can meet their teacher as well.
In talking with the teacher and school in advance, you can work with them to come up with a symptom management strategy. Be sure to tell the teacher about some issues you normally see at home and how you manage them.
Additionally, ask the teacher about the structure of the school day. Work together to identify potential problem areas in advance and ways to address them. These preliminary meetings might not help resolve everything, but they at least will provide some valuable strategies to start with.
Consider a Shorter Summer Program or Camp
One of the biggest hurdles when it comes to ADHD and kindergarten is the new social environment. Many children with ADHD have trouble adjusting to social situations. This can make the kindergarten classroom stressful and can aggravate their ADHD symptoms.
One of the ways to address the new social setting is to prepare your child with a short preview of what kindergarten might be like. A great opportunity for this might be enrolling your child in a short term summer transition program. Many communities and churches have short weeklong camps that might last for just a few hours a day. These activities can give your child a small taste of what kindergarten might be like. At the same time, the limited time frame can keep them from becoming too overwhelmed.
You should look into such opportunities the summer right before kindergarten starts. To find opportunities, you can ask at your neighborhood library or community center. Other places to check out might be a neighborhood website or community blog.
Strategies in the Classroom
While you need pre-planning to succeed, managing ADHD and kindergarten well comes down to how things work in the classroom. This means we next want to discuss some strategies in the classroom. Many parents feel like they have no say on classroom strategies. After all, the teacher controls the classroom and parents only pick up and drop off their kids. While the parent can’t be physically present, you nonetheless can influence and work with your child’s teacher to implement some strategies. Let’s talk through some of those now.
Work with Your Child’s Teacher to Connect with Other Kids
A first classroom strategy for managing ADHD and kindergarten involves connecting your child with other kids. Again, since many children with ADHD might struggle with social settings, the hardest part here might be relating to other kids. As a result, your child might need additional help forming connections.
One way to do this is simply through talking with your child’s teacher. Let them know particular things your child might find interesting. Ask if your child can sit with others with similar interests. Once your child’s teacher understands some of your child’s difficulties with social settings, they can help make the connections with other children.
Another way to help with these connections might be networking with other families outside of the classroom. Try to connect with other parents. Find out what families might live nearby and share common interests. You can then ask to connect further and allow the kids to get to know each other better. Outside connections can then pass on into the classroom and help your child transition better with other kids.
Talk Through the Possibility of Fidgets or Exercise to Help Your Kid Get Energy Out
Another way of managing ADHD and kindergarten in the classroom might involve the use of fidget toys. Many children struggle with focusing because they feel the need to get energy out. Sitting still in a classroom all day just makes them anxious. As a result, many times they act out or disrupt other students.
Many kindergarten programs involve some level of group exercise. You should talk to your child’s teacher, though, about allowing for additional time for your child. Additionally, maybe you can discuss allowing a small hand fidget for your child to play with. If your child starts acting up, talk with your teacher about appropriate ways of addressing the behavior. For instance, maybe the whole class can get up and do something active, which might help resolve the issue.
Strategies for At Home
Finally, to address ADHD and kindergarten holistically, you need to also have strategies for the home. Your child’s day doesn’t end when they come home from school. Furthermore, everything that happens at school can spill over into home or the other way around. With this in mind, you as the parent need to leverage your time at home to help make the school day go smoother. Let’s talk through a few quick strategies for the home to help with ADHD and kindergarten.
Talk Through New Experiences with your Child
The first at home strategy for ADHD and kindergarten involves simply talking with your child. You should ask your child how their day went. What did they like? What did they not like? Find out if they met anyone new and if they made any friends. Ask them about what they didn’t understand, or what was hard for them.
The school experience in kindergarten is brand new for your child, and there will be a lot of experiences they might not understand at first. As the parent, you need to talk through some of these things with them. Talking through what they experienced and how they felt about it helps your child process their own emotions. It also helps them understand their new social environment. All of these things can help prepare them better for dealing with different aspects of the kindergarten environment.
Get Your Child on a Daily Routine and Help Keep them Organized
Many times, children with ADHD get overwhelmed and stressed because they can’t stay organized. Furthermore, they forget about what they need to do and when. Before your child enters kindergarten, this rarely becomes an issue especially if you are always there to get them back on track. When your child enters kindergarten, though, they need something else to help keep them organized.
To help manage ADHD and kindergarten from home, you need to put a daily routine in place. You can make out a routine schedule that you can post somewhere your child can see. On this schedule, you should block out portions of the day and indicate what your child needs to do in each block. In the morning and evening, talk with your child about the schedule and how well they handled the day.
This type of schedule provides needed structure for kids with ADHD. The boundaries of a daily routine serve as an added help for managing symptoms. Reinforcing the routine at home helps to make your child’s transition to kindergarten easier overall.
Making ADHD and Kindergarten More Manageable
In the end, no matter what you do, for most people, ADHD and kindergarten still feels scary. For parents, the transition to kindergarten can feel awful. You want your baby to grow up, but at the same time, you want your baby to stay a baby. Since we can’t have it both ways, we must all move on and find ways to manage the new stages in life better.
ADHD and kindergarten becomes manageable when you prepare and plan ahead. Since this stage in life serves as such a large milestone for kids, you need to approach it with strategies in all realms of life. Adjusting to kindergarten doesn’t just start and end at school. As a result, you need to consider how you can aid in the transition at home before and after the school year and day.
We hope that you can use these strategies as a place to begin with your family’s transition. The move to kindergarten will probably be hard. Putting strategies in place, though, can still make it manageable. Use these tips and tools to help give yourself a leg up in getting started.