Learning how to calm hyperactive children is one of the most challenging aspects of being a parent, especially the parent of a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD).
Is your child bouncing off of the walls? Too loud? Too fidgety? Is he
creating havoc at home and school? Not playing well with others? And despite your best efforts, you just can't get him to wind down?
If this describes your child, I have been there and feel your frustration.
As a doctor who specializes in treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and as the mother of a son with ADHD, I have learned a few tips and tricks to help parents achieve a peaceful child and peaceful home.
The key is consistency, especially when it comes to setting boundaries and trying to teach more desirable behaviors.
Do not try them once or twice and give up in frustration. Try a few of these techniques and see which ones work best for your child.
1) Speak in a calming voice without frustration or yelling. Be the role model: If you want your child to be calm, remain calm yourself.
2) Maintain a healthy diet. Eat fresh foods, fruits, and vegetables. Choose foods that have not been sprayed with harmful pesticides, or pumped with growth hormones, steroids, and antibiotics.
3) Eliminate foods and drinks that contain added preservatives, coloring and sugar. Check labels for anything that contains high fructose corn syrup as it has been implicated in harming brain functioning, and causing obesity, and diabetes. You will be shocked to see that it is contained in many foods you consume.
4) Maintain firm, but kind, boundaries. Negotiate for good behavior.
5) Regular physical activity and exercise. Structured and focused activities help redirect all of that unfocused hyper energy. Studies show that performing vigorous activity can calm hyperactive children.
6) Remove the child from the situation in which they are exhibiting hyperactivity such as a birthday party, store, etc. In other words, change the triggering environment.
7) Engaging in creative activities can help calm hyperactive children. This enables them to develop their creativity and release emotional energy.
8) Massage. Try massaging temples, rubbing shoulders, massaging the scalp, or lightly running fingers through hair to calm a hyperactive child.
9) Breathing and relaxation. Most children and adults do not know how to calm down. Encourage children to monitor their breathing when they get overly stimulated and teach them to take deep breaths by slowly inhaling through the nose for 3-5 counts and exhaling through the mouth for 3-5 counts. Increase these amounts over time. Teach them to focus on their body and recognize any physical tension. Teach them to let go and release any body tension upon exhalation like a deflating balloon.
10) Consistency. Stick to routines. Make certain children know what is expected of them and the consequences for not abiding. Prepare children for any unusual or non-routine activities by explaining what is going to happen, and discuss ways they can keep calm even with the excitement brought on by the different activities. Follow through consistently.
11) Try creating a “Quiet Box”, "Boredom Box" or “Quiet Room” that provides creative outlets for a hyperactive child. Provide a quiet room or space with quiet toys and activities such as puzzles, book, jewelry making, drawing, etc. This room should have soothing lighting and paint. See this guide: How To Create A Calm Home.
Tip: Try not to lose your cool. Losing control in front of your child only worsens the behavior you are trying to change, increases your stress level, and sets a poor example for your child. Remember, if you want a calm child, you must be calm yourself.
Don't yell. If you find yourself losing control it is recommended that you give yourself a break. If need be, take a walk, take a few slow, deep, breaths until you calm down. When you feel more controlled, then you can more successfully manage your child's challenging behaviors. This way you can be a model of calm for your child.
13) Try some soothing aromatherapy scents that have been shown to help calm hyperactive children.
14) Expose them to the beauty of nature. A quiet walk in the park, camping, admiring the serenity of a gentle stream, or simply relaxing in the backyard while gazing at the stars is a great way to teach kids (and parents) how to slow down.
15) Use soothing music or sounds to calm hyperactive children.
16) Calmly explain why your child needs to settle down such as “If you jump off the bed you can hurt yourself.” It is not a debate, state it simply and do not get into a challenging debate.
17) Divide tasks into smaller components and calmly repeat instructions.
18) Avoid whatever may trigger their hyperactivity.
19) You set the tone, so try to remain positive. Children sense negative thoughts and will react to them; the converse is also true. Reassure them that you still love them even when they are behaving in a “highly spirited” fashion.
20) Put a positive spin on time out by using it as an opportunity to calm down and remove the child from a trigger situation.
21) Get enough sleep. Children 1 to 3 years old typically require 12 to 14 hours of sleep, 3 to 6 year old kids should get 10 3/4 to 12 hours of sleep, children 7 to 12 years of age need 10 to 11 hours, and 12 to 18 year old kids need 8 ¼ to 9 ½ hours of sleep daily.
22) Engage in self care. Monitor your own your own frustration. Your projected energy has a direct effect on your children and environment, so you must take care of yourself before caring for others.
If you follow these suggestions exactly and retain some patience, I guarantee that you will see progress in your child. You will witness fewer challenging behaviors, and your home life will become more peaceful.
These techniques not only calm hyperactive children but they benefit both parents and children by bringing them closer together. As a result, they aid in forming healthy bonds among all family members. This helps children succeed and strengthens the whole family unit.