HYPERACTIVE CHILDREN – HOW TO DEAL WITH THEM
There’s nothing that tests your endurance and patience more than a hyperactive child. Mainly because, to keep the peace and equilibrium you need to be keeping one step ahead (you need to predict what those little mini mes are going to be up to next); keeping to a routine (because you have that to remind them and fall back into as a means of keeping things in control); Paying more attention (they just might be more naughty and noisy because they have learnt that’s what gets them more attention); and a biggee that seems to be easily forgotten is consistency (because if you are not being consistent you have lost the battle).
IN A NUTSHELL a child is hyperactive because they havn’t yet learned self control. They can be taught self control by building on their social skills and learning to get in touch with what they are feeling (Hyperactive children find it difficult to handle anger, sadness and worry). I can hear the call “How do I build up my child’s social skills”. The social skills I talk about are simple everyday skills such as listening, following directions, keeping eye contact, sharing, cooperating, following directions, respecting personal space and using manners.
Lets take an example on sharing. If a child shares they tend to feel good about themselves but children are fairly well self centred, so when it comes to sharing the one and only remaining cookie, that idea is not going to seem so hot to them, but they might be happier to share a toy they no longer want. This will then build on their willingness to share and make them feel good about themselves (at the same time building their self esteem).
SENSORY OVERLOAD can be another big stumbling block for some hyperactive kids. Children who are sensitive tothings like noise, crowds, textures, bright lights etc are often in a fight flight mode so it is important to keep their lives destressed and surrounded by calm where possible. Picture TV going (and how large TV’s are these days?), pile of toys on floor, dad just arrived home, mum clanging the pots as she is cooking, the lights are on as we are now in winter…. normal scenario right? Now imagine what how all that is magnified if you have a sensitivity in sensory issues.
There can be a multitude of reasons for their hyperactivity but at the end of the day you are the one having to deal with it. So, it may be useful for you to be able to adjust your management of them.
SOME HELPFUL STRATEGIES
If you have a hyperactive child you will be using up a lot of energy trying to keep up with them and presenting a calm demeanor (if you think about it, you can use up a lot of energy pretending your calm….), and stay that one step ahead. Therefore, don’t try to be in control with everything. Pick your battles. As long as they or anyone else are not in danger, allow them to run crazily around sometimes and save your energy for the important ones. There can however be a fine balance between what appears to be laissez-faire parenting and providing the necessary amount of structure. And a hyperactive child requires a lot of structure, because this provides the (self) control for them, which they don’t have in abundance.
Please do not try to reason and explain things to a hyperactive child. Think about it…. Their bodies are not the only thing racing… their brains are too. Explanations are futile at this point. Better to say, we will sit down and discuss this later. Again, pick your battles and don’t plan to discuss every durn thing that has gone wrong during the day, and last week for that matter. And make sure you do it at a time when things have calmed down, and you have the time. When you are having your discussion, get some input from them as to how they feel, and what is going on for them as that will have the two fold effect of understanding their perspective AND ( It will also make them feel they are contributing and have some control), you making decisions that are more specific to their needs. And, instead of saying don’t jump off the couch, provide an alternative to where they can keep jumping.
KISS. I am sure you have heard of KISS. (and I don’t mean of the puckering variety). I will say it another way. Break it into manageable pieces. Hyperactivity equals short attention/listening spans, therefore when giving instructions make them clear (not muddled) and concise. For example instead of saying “while your washing your hands, clean your teeth and tell your brother he needs to do his too”, instead say I need you to do three things. First wash your hands, second clean your teeth and third tell your brother to do the same. That is an example of being concise. An example of breaking it down into manageable chunks would be “Go wash your hands and then I’ll tell you what you need to do next”. They will also focus better if you can teach them to look you in the eye while you are talking.
ANXIETY and hyperactivity can go hand in hand. A hyperactive child may have trouble with organising, planning and managing time. This can lead them to being stressed, and with stress comes anxiety. Your child may feel like a headless chicken and needs clear direction in what to do next. Therefore a few ground rules need to be set so your child is clear about what is expected.
LESSEN DISTRACTIONS. It’s not a case that a hyperactive child is not going to be able to focus, but that what he chooses to focus on may not be appropriate. Therefore, to encourage boring things like homework introduce fun prompts…. like popcorn (Plain please/or butter salted!) to use in the maths homework… or colouring pencils to underline the reading…. (erasable though yeah?) or draw pictures about. Playing simple attention boosting games like simon says and musical chairs is helpful and can only take a few minutes. Getting kids to go play outside has always worked to lessen pent up energy and renew focus and concentration.
DIET CONTROL. Throw out the processed foods. (Keep the healthy food at their eye level). Avoid the additives. You can minimize sugar highs and lows by pairing sweeter items with protein, fibre or fat to slow digestion. Dispense with the takeaways. I know I know, it is just creating extra work for you.
POSITIVE REINFORCEMENTS Catch your child being good and point it out. Kids are motivated to keep working hard if they get positive reinforcements. High five or thumbs up are simple examples. How often do you tell other adults you are proud of your child within your child’s earshot? For younger children sticker charts work well. For older children token economy works (collecting tokens towards a specified reward, which can be as simple as choosing what to have for dinner).
HOW TO REDUCE HYPERACTIVITY (for a while)
With hyperactivity it’s all a matter of weathering the storm, but there can be the occasional lull. Here are some ways this might happen:
Provide a healthy breakfast – blood sugar levels can dip and dive if poor breakfasts are eaten, and this can initiate the hyperactivity
Create a Boredom jar – There’s nothing like boredom to start the hyperactivity going. If your lacking in ideas go to Pinterest, they have some good suggestions
Encourage Exercise – Make sure your child gets at least 20 minutes of exercise a day. This will cause the endorphins to react in their brain and give off positive feelings.
Provide fidget toys and alternatives – There are so many things out there that are good for fidgeting. Have a look on the internet for some interesting and inexpensive ideas
Jigsaw Puzzles – are a good way to keep them occupied while they calm down and focus on how to solve the puzzle
Gum (now I have to admit I havnt tried it….but) – Believe it or not gum is a way of giving your kids sensory input. They are using their sense of taste, smell and touch as they chew away on it.
Hand squeezes for a quick fix – At a restaurant have them push up on the chair using only the palm of their hands. In the grocery store have them push their palms against each other. Need them to settle down before hopping into the car Get them to push against you with the palm of their hands as though trying to push you over. Or have them push against the wall.
Project Calmness – The more agitated you are the more it spreads to your child.
The important thing is to not make your child feel bad. It will get better over time and with management.
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