Kids being kids find it difficult to sit still, pay attention or wait their turn. They want things to happen instantly, and have the constant urge to move about and explore. This happens occasionally with most children, especially if they are below the age of 5. However, with hyperactive children, these behaviours are observed more.
Around the age of 5, most young children even those who have so far have been considered hyperactive begin to concentrate better, show a willingness to listen and follow instructions. As parents you will notice that they are learning by leaps and bounds.
However, if you see that your child has some of the symptoms listed below and his behaviour is affecting his development consult a doctor to accurately diagnose if your child has ADHD, the degree of his condition and offer appropriate guidance.
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Remember, not all hyperactive children have ADHD.
What parents and society, in general, need to understand is that hyperactivity in children diagnosed with ADHD is not the child’s fault. A child with ADHD is not being hyperactive or disobedient on purpose and there is little he can do on his on to control it.
Any two children with ADHD need not be the same – there is a broad spectrum of ADHD and a child can be anywhere between 0% to 100% in the spectrum. Even your doctor will not be able to diagnose the degree of hyperactivity accurately as there are no blood or lab tests to diagnose the same but the diagnosis is based on the doctor’s learning and observation based on certain behaviours in the child observed over a given time period.
Adults, however, can help kids with Hyperactivity related to ADHD in many ways:
#1. Break down their tasks into small parts: Children with hyperactivity are able to concentrate, but for a limited time. Breaking down the tasks can help them finish one part in one go and will give them a sense of accomplishment.
#2. Less distraction: While doing any activity which requires concentration, make sure the child sits where he is unlikely to get distracted. That would mean away from gadgets, toys, siblings, and other family members.
#3. Help them get organised: Teach them to organise their things, whether it is their school things, stationery or toys. It makes it easier for them to find their stuff and put it back later.
#4. Give them short breaks: Give them permission to take short breaks to run about and burn their energy while studying so that they can get back to the task at hand with renewed concentration. Make them understand that the breaks are timed and for a few minutes only, after which their attention is required again.
#5. Limit and replace sugar: Research is increasingly linking sugar with aggravated symptoms of ADHD. In general, it is advisable to avoid refined sugar. You could try to use jaggery, honey, full-fruit or fruit milkshakes to satisfy the child’s sugar cravings if any. You could even consider adopting the healthier sugar alternatives as a family to improve overall family health.
#6. Exercise or physical sport: Researchers have found that exercise increases blood flow to the brain and releases neurotransmitters including dopamine which helps in paying attention. As children with hyperactivity could have trouble following instructions, organised sport may not be suitable for them. You could, however, explore options such as swimming, cycling, track, dancing or anything which involves physical exertion with limited rules which they enjoy. Try to introduce variety in their daily schedule to keep it interesting.
#7. Sufficient sleep: Lack of sleep increases hyperactivity and lack of attention. Ensure the child has a clearly defined bedtime and gets enough sleep. Limit television viewing, especially in the hours before bedtime as it can increase brain activity. Instead, make the bedtime routine calming by giving the child a bath, offering a glass of warm milk and reading a book.
#8. Reward good behaviour: Establish behavioural rules by clearly defining which behaviour is acceptable and which is not. Reward the child for following these rules. The rules could be for good behaviour, for eg: managing temper, waiting for their turn to speak or functional, for eg: clearing up after themselves, helping do household chores. The reward could be based on a simple point system where points are awarded for following the rules. Consistency is important; do not allow a behaviour on one day and ban it the other as this will only confuse the child.
#9. Discourage bad behaviour: Just the way good behaviour is rewarded, it is important to discourage bad behaviour too. If you are following a point system of rewards, deduct the child’s points for bad behaviour which could include incomplete work, disobedience or failure to follow rules. It is important to be consistent but also flexible. Follow through by helping the child redeem points in exchange for whatever he likes – watching TV, a toy or a snack. This will encourage them to accumulate more points.
#10. Manage aggression: Children with ADHD sometimes act-out more aggressively than other children. Be swift in removing the child from the aggressive situation and give him some time to cool off or a time-out. Explain that the time-out is not a punishment but rather an opportunity to think about his behaviour so that it is not repeated.
Do not hesitate or be embarrassed to seek counselling on how to bring up a hyperactive child. Your counsellor can be the support you need by helping you manage stress and anxiety. He can also guide you on how to talk to the child (tone and phrases), channelize his energy and suggest child-rearing methods which you might not have thought of before.
Just like with any other child, you need patience and love to bring up a child with ADHD. Don’t let negativity or the disorder take control of yours or your child’s life. Remember, ADHD is only one aspect of your child. He is smart, curious and fun like any other child and with proper medication and guidance will accomplish all he desires to.
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