5 ways to help your ADHD child calm down
“STOP BOUNCING OFF THE WALLS!!” Growing up, I heard my mom yell this phrase day after day and it cracked me up. I thought this was funny, as I pictured us literally bouncing off the walls. I thought she was exaggerating when she said this, but now as a parent of my own three children, she wasn’t kidding. Sometimes it looks like my kids are “bouncing off of the walls”.
They run, jump, hop and skip everywhere they go. When they pass each other in our narrow hallway they literally “bounce off the walls” to get by each other. They bounce off couches, tables and our family piano.
I want to wrap them up in giant bubble wrap and give them all NyQuil. Beyond that, how do we teach them correct behaviors?
1. Divide and conquer
This step is so important and cannot be overlooked. When children are overstimulated they absolutely need to be separated. They are vultures and feed off of each other’s energy. Think about this- How often is one child completely wild, while the other one sits at the table and does homework quietly?
As one child sees his/her partner in crime having fun and wreaking havoc, the other child wants to join in.
If possible, find quiet places in the home to place the children for a few minutes while they calm down. Make it consistent and choose the same place for the same child each time.
Last week, a mother showed me the “chill corner” in her home. She had a large bean bag in the corner of the living room. This brilliant mother had created a quiet zone by placing only quiet toys, games, and even furniture in this room.
Everything else that made noise squeaky toys, TV’s, creaky chairs, and even pets were confined to all of the other rooms and places in the home. This allowed her to work with one child at a time in the “chill corner”.
2. Make a connection
Often when children are on a sugar rush or energy kick, they are living in the moment, enjoying each second and letting their energy control and drive their impulses and reactions. Making a connection with your child is imperative.
Make eye contact, give them a hug and break down the “the force” controlling their little minds. Once a connection is made help them lay out the rest of the next hour.
Let them know what is coming up and provide them with a few rationales for staying calm and getting through the next hour.
3. 5 minute crazy dance party
This doesn’t have to be dancing per se, (I just liked the title). If our children are being run by their energy or the “wiggles”, give them a chance to get it out.
Give them 5 minutes of complete 100% physical activity. If a child has been at school all day and has exerted a lot of mental effort it might be time to give your child a break. Plan ahead and provide them with physically exhausting activities. This might be a quick dance off to their favorite song, 50 push ups, or sprints in the front yard.
This should be fun for them, because you’ll likely use this trick several times. Your children will think “What??? Mom is letting me act crazy for five minutes!!!” And the answer is YES!
They will have fun and physical activity is ALWAYS good for them. it also gets their heart rate up, which will increase oxygen to the brain, increase Dopamine and Norepinephrine chemicals in the brain, which will ultimately improve their focus and concentration when they have calmed down!
4. Learning environment
Developing a creative learning environment is everything. Create a learning atmosphere that is calm and soothing, but not boring (which will create more anxiety). Now as a parent, I enjoy nothing more than dropping the kids off at school, putting my ear buds in and listening to “Natures Sounds” while I write. Could I type and write in complete silence for an hour? Possible, but not likely.
Having a little white noise or soft music playing in the back ground has been shown to improve focus.
Be aware what they are eating. Yup, I’m going there. Our children will only function as well as the quality of food we provide them. If they come home from school and their after school snack is Soda and candy, they will act like they are running on Soda and Candy.
5. Structure and consistency
This goes hand in hand with creating the right learning environment. Humans are creatures of habit. They look forward to structured schedules and plans. If I’m a child and come home each day and I am anxiously waiting to play with my friends, my anxiety is going to ramp up my energy and inattention.
As increased structure and routine becomes a part of my life, I know what is coming next, what to look forward to and I train my body and mind when it is their turn to take over.
A visual chart for young children is an absolute help!
I worked with a mom a few years ago who wrote down the daily schedule for the children each day after school on a white board.
It looked something like this.
Her children loved it! It helped decrease their anxiety because they always knew what was coming next and when it was time to play ☺. For younger children, use fun pictures instead of words. You can also use pictures of the kitchen clock in your home for the different important times on your chart.
As you plan out your schedule there will be several “mental focus” oriented tasks and several “physical” oriented tasks. The younger your child is, the more these should trade off. 30 minutes mental focus, 30 minutes physical focus and so forth.
The older the child is, they will have an increased ability to focus for longer periods of time. A teenage brain should be able to complete an hour’s worth of consistent mental effort. This is a great goal, if they aren’t there yet, slowly build up to a goal.
Once they have reached their goal-celebrate with a quick dance party, join them in a few push ups. Allow them to get up, walk around, do a physical chore or two, stretch, take out the garbage or do a few exercises before being asked to sit back down for another mental focused activity.
All five of these easy tools can be used together or individually in most situations.
Try them today and let us know what you think and check our other great parenting lessons!
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