If you have children with ADHD you probably know that summer brings on a new set of problems. One is boredom. Children with ADHD tend to become bored quicker than those without ADHD. When boredom strikes, children with ADHD often act impulsively, make risky decisions or seek high-stimulus activities — and this can get them into trouble.
Why are children with ADHD more prone to boredom?
There have been a few studies looking at the correlation between ADHD traits and boredom. In the first study, researchers found that people who get bored easily are more likely to exhibit symptoms of ADHD, both in attention deficits and hyperactivity. The second study came up with similar results: those prone to boredom had increased symptoms of ADHD and depression as well as faring poorly on sustained-attention measures.
In the book Driven to Distraction by Edward M. Hallowell and John J. Ratey, the authors list 20 criteria for diagnosing ADHD. The seventh item is “an intolerance for boredom.” Dr. Daniel Amen, in his book Reclaim Your Brain, explains that some individuals with ADHD have low activity in their prefrontal cortex. These people might seek out high-stimulus, risky or engaging activities because these increase the activity in the brain and actually help them to calm down. They seek activities that will jolt their brain out of the lethargy it feels during times of boredom. They physically have “intolerance to boredom.”
For many children with ADHD, the boredom of the long summer days can lead to misbehaviors, accidents or creative thinking. By preparing for and managing boredom you can help your child enjoy the summer months.
Tips for managing boredom in children with ADHD
Provide structure and routine. You might be tempted to forego the routine since they just ended a school year that was highly structured, but routine actually decreases chances of getting bored. Structure and planned activities give your child something to do.
Incorporate movement into every day. Children with ADHD need to get up and move around. Try to start each day with exercise, even if it is only for 10 or 15 minutes. This helps get your child’s brain ready for the day. If you notice your child getting bored, play some music and dance. If your child is spending most of the day at home, plan for active play at least once every two hours.
Use your child’s interests as the inspiration for activities. Try to plan for your child to spend time each day pursuing his passion. If your children are younger, think about the activities that grab and hold their interest. For older children, find camps, clubs or classes that further their knowledge about the topic or allow them to build skills.
Create a boredom-beating box. Fill a box with different types of items: art and craft supplies, musical instruments and fascinating books. Take out the box for limited times to help keep the items interesting. You might take it out at a certain time of day or save it for when your child appears to be bored.
Look for variety in activities. Summer is a great time to explore different things and some children haven’t any idea what they are interested in doing. Search out community activities or plan short trips that will give your children new and interesting experiences.
Go outside. It’s great to be active outdoors; however, even during quiet activities, such as reading or playing on a tablet or phone, being outdoors helps to reduce ADHD symptoms.
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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.