Dr. Murphy is a special education teacher and founder of Effective Effort Consulting. He is a leading provider of ADHD/Executive Function coaching and consulting services on the South Shore and Greater Boston.

The start of school is only a week away. Now is the time to help your child transition from summer mode to school mode. Since self-regulation is a struggle for many children, shifting out of unproductive summer mode into productive school mode can feel quite overwhelming. To support this change in mindset, use what I call, the ‘45-day challenge’. It is a mindset shift that helps children set into motion the necessary habits to start the first 45 days of school. This change in perspective gives you and your child a short term goal to strive towards, which taps their motivation, competitive spirit, and grit.

To do this successfully, you need an agenda and a list of expectations to define the routines with each day. If you need an agenda, Order Out of Chaos is my favorite as it helps students manage both their school and non-school life. Set the expectations right away that you will be referencing the calendar to track progress each day. Creating a daily routine for your child is a little harder as it takes more time and will involve input from your son or daughter. You can use these routine templates and edit them to match the developmental needs* of your child. By helping your child see your expectations within the flow of a typical day, it will give them the reference point they need to aid their decision making and management of commitments and priorities.

Once you have the agenda and school routine set up, then it’s time for a family meeting to discuss the 45-day challenge. Consider these next steps as you help your children establish the right mindset, the right routines, and the right habits to achieve their personal and academic goals this year.

  • Give the agenda to each child and have them open to the date that’s 45 school days into the school year. Have them write the word ’45-day challenge’ on that date.
  • Discuss the importance of planning, creating productive routines in life, using a calendar to manage life’s priorities, and setting goals.
  • Discuss that the 45-day challenge is a goal setting technique to support their efforts to turn positive routines into positive habits and help them achieve their goals.
  • Discuss their goals and have them write them into their agenda or someplace for it to be posted.
  • Set nightly times for check-ins with each child to review the day and plan for the next.
  • Set Sunday family meeting time to reflect on the past week and discuss commitments for the upcoming week.

*for elementary age children and those who struggle with working memory and attention, you may want to use one of these templates.