Back to school nights. Last minute forms. Packing lunches. School supplies. Meeting new teachers, new friends, new administrators. Building new routines. After missing three important appointments in one week, I found myself feeling like a puddle of goo. Worse, I looked at the calendar and realized there are still three more weeks to get through in September.
Back to school is exhausting, not just for kids, but for parents too. For those of us with adult ADHD and executive function challenges, it’s an extra level of drained.
Here is my four-step plan for surviving the back-to-school blahs.
1. Look ahead and plan less
Now is not the time for non-urgent doctor’s appointments, hair cuts (sorry Dana, I totally thought I had Friday’s appointment on the calendar) or taking on new responsibilities.
- Make a plan for the “have-to-dos” and spread them out over the month.
- Do backpack checks right as the kids come home and keep a pen handy by the door or in a pocket of the backpack to sign paperwork.
- Pack lunches as you’re making dinner (or have the kids pack lunches as part of their bedtime routine).
- Give yourself a break on laundry or deep cleaning house tasks. We’re all in survival mode this month.
2. Keep up your sustaining routines
Hopefully, you have a creative outlet and an exercise plan (if you don’t, more on the importance of those later). You, ESPECIALLY, need these outlets this month, so don’t let them slide. You’ll have to remind yourself that it’s okay if you don’t make it to the hundredth back-to-school event because you’re on a hike, have a friend fill you in.
3. Muster up some patience for your kids
Once upon a time, your kids had a school routine that kept you all going like a well-olied machine. It WILL come back, but it’s going to take some time.
- Help your kids out with some visual tools (picture schedules, new week planners, whiteboards, etc.), and a lot of positive reinforcement (and snacks!).
- Give them extra downtime and encourage extra sleep.
- Sit with them at homework time until they develop their own routines (or if they struggle to do this, enlist help). If homework time brings up your own bad memories, remember, this isn’t permanent.
4. Self-compassion, self-compassion, self-compassion
This is the most lifelong, important skill I want to impart to all my clients, but especially my adult ADHD clients. Self-compassion decreases cortisol levels, otherwise known as the stress hormone, in our brains. Trust me, the last thing you need this month is to have your stress hormones on overdrive.
Know that you’re going to make mistakes, there are going to be messes, and it won’t go right. But you’ll be okay, and, when all else fails, remember, spooky season is on the way.
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Stephanie Ludwig is one of Knot Counseling’s BIG-HEARTED therapists! She’s a married, mama of 2 and is passionate about working with adult ADHD after learning so much from her own ADHD struggles. Stephanie is trained in EMDR and is an ADHD Coach and ADHD therapist. She has a warm and contagious energy.