A friend of mine – a single parent – had reached her wits’ end dealing with her eight-year-old-son. The child refused to focus on anything which required him to sit down and complete a task for more than a couple of minutes. Five minutes and he would start fidgeting, before running off to do something else – often one that would get him into trouble. This meant unfinished homework, complaints from school, problems with his friends, much to the frustration of his mother.
Tired, my friend mustered all the will she could and took him to a child psychologist. Much to her relief, she found out that her child was just a hyperactive one, he did not suffer from Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). However, the psychologist did suggest some lifestyle changes that would help the situation.
Life can be difficult and overwhelming when you have a hyperactive kid who constantly needs monitoring. In some cases, hyperactivity is caused by ADHD, while in others, as in the case of my friend’s son, it may be that your child is much more active than others. While, there never is a right or wrong way of bringing up your child – hyperactive or not – here are some tips that may help you get through difficult phases:
Keep your home organised: Most children benefit from a certain amount of organisation and order, and hyperactive kids do the most. If an environment is too chaotic and has too many distractions, it confuses the child. Keep your house and your child’s room neat, with everything in order. Establish a routine for your child, and set some rules on how you expect everything to run/people to behave at home. Your child will appreciate the clarity on what is expected of him/her. Applaud when she follows rules or the correct steps to finish a task and avoid berating her when she doesn’t.
Engage your child: Your hyperactive child has a lot of pent-up energy that needs to be channelised better. Get productive with him/her – introduce music, sports, arts and crafts and other avenues where he/she can use up all that enthusiasm and express himself creatively. You can create an activity box with different kinds of start supplies, building boxes, books and toys and have your child play with it. Engaging in outdoor activities and play is also a great way of using up all that energy. Often, taking a walk in the neighbourhood can help calm your child down.
Spend time with your child: In today’s crazy world, it may be easier said than done, but just spending some time with your child and giving them your complete attention, without trying to sneak a peek at your mobile, will help calm your child and do wonders to their confidence and state of mind. Talk to her about her day, her fears, apprehensions and interests, and be with her while she pursues her hobby. A friend recently spoke about how, by just sitting next to her hyperactive 4-year-old while he was playing with building blocks, got him to put in five minutes more than what he would have otherwise.
Avoid using screen time as a distraction: It’s a route many parents take to get some free time for themselves – and that’s perfectly fine. However, you should not let that be a way of diverting your child’s attention/pacifying him. Studies have shown that too much screen time can overstimulate children, impact their ability to focus and create attention issues. Decrease his screen time and use his free time and energy on to other things – sports, theatre or arts. You don’t need to complete cut out screen time, just schedule it in with his daily activities and ensure that you and your child stick to that.
Music therapy: A study conducted by the Florida based Centre for Children and Families on the effects of distractors on children with ADHD found that, in some cases, listening to music helped kids with ADHD to complete their work. It was even nearly as effective as medication for some of the kids monitored. You can work with different genres of music to see what works best with your child. You can also teach your child to play a musical instrument – this will boost both focus and creativity.
Meditation: Sit with your child, or get professional help if you are unsure how to proceed, and practice meditation for some time on a daily basis. Meditation and mindfulness has been found to reduce cortisol (the hormone released during stressful situations) levels. Hence, by getting your child to meditate daily, you can help him/her control emotions, relax and deal with stress better. Deep breathing exercises, yoga and internal martial arts such as tai-chi have also been found to be effective.
Ensure your child is well-fed: Hunger causes blood sugar levels to fluctuate, thus making children more hyperactive. Hence, ensure that you start your child’s day with a hearty, nutritious breakfast.
Seek professional help: In some cases, hyperactivity is caused by a psychological disorder called Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), while in others often your child may be more active than others. If you believe that your child is showing the symptoms typical of ADHD, you may want to seek professional help. Therapy combined with some medication will help your child, and hence it is better to start off early, rather than wait until your child is older.