Kids with ADHD – Hyperactive presentation type hear words like “no” “stop” or “calm down” many, many times throughout their day.
They are overflowing with energy and are constantly stimulated. This can make it impossible to recognize what to focus on, when to ‘stop’, or how to ‘calm down’. If your child can learn a sense of control – learn how to be the driver of their own car – they’ll be less easily frustrated. Self esteem and self concept will be strengthened. They’ll receive less negative feedback from peers, teachers and parents. They’ll be better able to adapt to new situations. And guess what? It can be done! It takes some strategies and a lot of practice and consistency on both your part and your child’s part, but you can do it. Here’s how.
Strategy: Create a High Structure, High Warmth Home
Use a combination of consistent, high structure to keep your child ‘on the rails’ as much as possible, while also ensuring they receive heaps of love and warmth to mitigate against the negative feedback they often experience. This might mean modifying your parenting style if you have other children in the home who have coped just fine with less structure.
For kids with ADHD, routine is so important for success. Wake your child up at the same time each morning; put them to bed at the same time every night—even on weekends, if possible. Give ample notice if there is going to be any sort of change in the daily routine. Your child may struggle with ‘transitions’ – going from one activity to the next. Try giving 10, 5, 2-minute warnings to give your child a chance to ramp down.
Here’s part two, which is equally important: maintain unconditional, high-warmth relationships in your home. Never withhold affection as a consequence for misbehaviour (this goes for all children, but especially kids with ADHD as they’ll receive more negative feedback in a day than typical kids do). Offer your child expressions of love in many ways – bear hugs, words of kindness, spontaneous treats, a hand squeeze or wink when you’re out, ‘hug attacks’, etc.
It’s important to understand that there will be setbacks. Expect that there will be difficulties. Give yourself and your child permission to accept that things won’t be perfect, but in time things WILL get easier.
Strategy: Exercise, Exercise, Exercise
Exercise is the best treatment for kids with the Hyperactive/Impulsive Presentation of ADHD. It offers immediate, positive benefits like engaging the mind, calming the body, and boosting concentration. Children with ADHD should never, ever be kept in at recess to finish homework. Make sure you give your child opportunities to tire themselves out every day. Here are some ideas:
- Play outside before school, or walk/ride bike to school if feasible
- Play outside after school
- Take hikes, go swimming and walks or runs together as a family on weekends
- Include movement or dancing in your morning routine
- Older kids may enjoy jogging or running when they first wake up
- Encourage team sports, dancing, martial arts, etc.
Children with ADHD – especially the Hyperactive presentation – will find it difficult to wind down and can easily become over-excited, which can lead to meltdowns, tantrums or aggression. This is because they have difficulty with self-regulation; however, this can be improved over time. Children with ADHD can gradually learn how to ‘wind themselves down’. The key is to figure out what works for your child and then help them to identify when to use the strategy.
Don’t expect your child to be able to recognize when they’re overstimulated right off the bat. You can start by initiating the strategies yourself, and when your child has more experience you could say “You seem pretty wound up! Do you need to use a tool to help settle down? What should we try?”
Try some of the following ideas:
- Have your child jump on a trampoline or run around the back yard five times. Some children will just need to blow off more steam before their bodies can settle down.
- Use fidget toys, a swizzle seat or a pilates ball to give the child a bit of physical stimulation, which may end up being sufficient to get them to calm down and focus.
- Wrap them in a weighted blanket and read them a book, or try a weighted lap animal.
- Give them a firm hug and practice deep breathing.
- Use sensory deprivation – dim lights, turn off noise, turn off screens, remove all external stimuli you can control.
- Put on some calming music, with earbuds if appropriate.
- Use a white noise machine.
- Practice meditation together.
With enough practice, your child will begin to notice the signs that they are overstimulated, and then they’ll know what to do. This is an invaluable skill that will serve them well into their teens and young adults years. For more strategies on how to manage ADHD in childhood, check out our course.