Not all children with ADHD have hyperactivity, but for those that do, sitting still is an almost impossible feat. The constant physical activity can be frustrating for parents and a nightmare for teachers when hyperactivity causes a child to constantly disrupt the class. But for children with hyperactivity, physical activity is not the only aspect. Their minds often don’t shut down. Thoughts go a million miles an hour and in many different directions. To help a child learn to manage or reduce hyperactivity includes strategies to help lower physical activity levels and to calm thoughts.
The following are 10 ways parents can help reduce hyperactivity.
Good breakfast - If your child’s teacher complains that he is frequently disrupting the class by fidgeting or getting up from his seat, start your child off with a good, healthy breakfast. Hunger and blood sugar peaks and valleys can make a child more hyperactive.
Teach deep breathing/yoga/tai chi/meditation - While many of the strategies are things a parent can do to help their child, it is also important to teach your child methods for self-regulation. Deep breathing exercises, yoga, tai chi or meditation all help a child learn to slow down their thoughts and their bodies. Work with a professional if you aren’t sure how to teach your child these different methods of relaxation.
Take a walk - For moments of high activity at home, taking a walk outside can help your child calm down. Being outside and regular exercise have both been shown to reduce ADHD symptoms. If your child is still young, plan a daily walk around the block into your routine. If he is older, have him take a short walk outside before settling down to do homework or another quiet time activity.
Use a boredom box - Hyperactivity zooms when boredom sets in. Create a box of activities geared toward your child’s interests. The box might contain dress-up clothes, art supplies, Legos, models or whatever activity tends to hold your child’s interest. To keep the box interesting and novel, switch items once in awhile and once he has lost interest, put the box away until it is needed again.
Routine and structure - Make sure your days, even weekends and vacations, follow a routine. Children with ADHD thrive in structured environments, when they know what to expect. Plan in transitional time to help your child move from one activity to another
Use music - Soothing music, such as classical music, can help some children calm down. Experiment with different types of music to find out what works for your child. Use music in the background for times when activity levels should be low, such as homework time, dinner time or before bedtime.
Create a quiet time area - Create a space in your house for your child to retreat to during "quiet time." You could use a bean bag share and have plenty of books, puzzles and coloring books to keep your child busy and quiet.
Exercise every day - Add exercise to your child’s daily routine. Making sure your child gets at least 20 minutes of exercise each day can help reduce ADHD symptoms all day - and reduce depression and anxiety symptoms. Even during the cold winter months or on rainy days, try to find indoor exercises for your child - many of the video games have an exercise game to help your child keep moving and entertained.
Stay calm yourself - Children react to your reaction. If you get upset, frustrated or angry, their hyperactivity levels may increase. Take a few deep breaths, go into the other room, and take a short break if you need one. Staying calm and reacting with a neutral voice will help your child remain calm.
Provide fidget alternatives - For children who seem eternally restless or must fidget whenever they are trying to sit still, provide fidgeting alternatives to help them release energy and keep moving without disturbing others. Your child might sit still for longer periods of time if he has a stress ball or other object in his hand he can manipulate. Chewing gum may also help (but usually isn’t allowed in school.)
While hyperactivity can cause inappropriate behavior in some situations, remember, hyperactivity is also seen as a positive trait. Many adults with ADHD appreciate their endless energy and feel they are able to accomplish much more than those without hyperactivity. Help your children learn to harness the excessive energy and use it to help them accomplish their goals.
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.