Raising a hyperactive child can be challenging. Every parent wants to be the best parent they can be for their child. You only want to guide them to do the right thing and have the right tools for adulthood. When there is a change in your child’s behavior, you may worry about your parenting skills. It is common to blame yourself and wonder how you can help your child.
Making life easier for your hyperactive child may leave you feeling overwhelmed or that you’re doing everything wrong. The more you learn about your child, how to effectively approach their challenges, what triggers them, and what triggers you, the better you can help them with their additional needs.
Being a parent is not an easy task. With this guide, you will gather all the tools you need to help your child to the best of your ability. When your child is given any type of diagnosis, you should always research the condition as much as possible. When you have a better understanding of what to do to help your child, life will flow much easier. It will also help you to be a better advocate for your child.
What Is Hyperactivity?
Some kids are just a little hyper. That’s what kids do; they:
Hyperactivity is much more, though. Hyperactivity is defined as “having increased movement, impulsive actions, and a shorter attention span, and being easily distracted”.
When a child has hyperactivity, it could stem from something a little bigger. There are a few common reasons for hyperactivity:
- ADHD – Hyperactivity is the main underlying issue behind ADHD.
- A child could be overactive and impulsive
- Lash out in anger
- Not want to show affection
- Autism – A developmental disorder; varies in severity and typically includes:
- Struggling with social interactions
- Challenges keeping a conversation going
- Having trouble with giving and interpreting communication queues, whether verbal or body language
- Nervous System Disorders
- Mental Disorders
- Hormone Imbalance – Problems with your child’s thyroid can cause many things, hyperactivity included.
Hyperactivity can be treated and sometimes, without medication. As with most illnesses, there are signs to help you be aware there may be an issue. Being able to get on top of it early on is always better. Staying ahead and knowing what to expect are key to managing any illness.
Source – Autism Awareness
Behaviors You Can Expect from a Hyperactive Child
Hyperactive children typically have a few of the same characteristics. While each child is different, a hyperactive child could:
- Be unable to sit still, have trouble staying in their seat, and be constantly bouncing or moving any part of their bodies
- Have very impulsive behavior. This is not a child who is doing whatever they want on purpose. They struggle daily with controlling every movement of their body and thought in their head.
- Not being able to keep their hands to themselves
- Talking over others and blurting out random things
- Acting out for no significant reason
- This can lead to accidental injuries of your child or others
- Be easily distracted. It is hard for a hyperactive child to focus on one task at times. They may have a very short attention span and struggle with school due to an inability to concentrate.
- Have spurts of aggressive behavior that seem to come out of nowhere
- Hitting, biting, kicking, or harming others in any way
A child with hyperactivity may get overwhelmed very easily, but they still need to grow and thrive. They need your love and support even when you feel they might not.
Source – Healthline Hyperactivity
Meltdowns – What To Avoid And What Helps
Hyperactive children can have episodes where they lash out, flail around, shout, or even hit. Every child is different, but some things will help prevent meltdowns.
It is good to keep an eye out for your child’s individual triggers as well.
Each child’s brain is unique. Some children are not bothered by things other children might be bothered by. These are some of the most basic triggers and ways to help calm your child:
- Loud, Chaotic Places
- Loud noises and too much activity going on can be very distracting to your child. It will make it very hard to focus, overwhelm your child, and could set them off.
- Strobing lights can also be upsetting to some children.
- Take your child out of the environment, if possible. Provide them with:
- Headphones playing soft, soothing music
- Earmuffs or earplugs to reduce the sound
- Physical Activity
- Too much running around can easily make your child tired and cranky. A cranky kid is more vulnerable to becoming overwhelmed.
- Too little activity can also be cause issues for your child.
Kids need to run off some steam, stay active, and let their brains thrive while playing.
- Junk food and sweets don’t fuel your child, or anyone, for that matter. Fresh veggies, protein, and a well-rounded diet will give your child the energy they need to help their body thrive.
- Certain foods can cause some children to act differently.
- Sleep. Sleep is the most important part of keeping your child calmer. Here are some ways to help your child get much-needed sleep:
- Limit tv/tablet time, especially closer to bedtime. The blue light used for technology triggers areas of your child’s brain that can keep them awake and restless.
- Read them a book while snuggled in bed together. This is very comforting and helps them wind down.
- Don’t let them have caffeine. Caffeine, whether from chocolate, tea, soft drinks, or energy drinks, can cause a hyperactive child to be set off!
Structure is Key to Managing Hyperactivity
Structure Found in Schedules
When a child lives day to day with no structure, it can create chaos. Even though a child might not know this, in fact, they will most likely rebel against it. They need and want structure. We are not talking a strict minute by minute structure. A basic list like the example below may be sufficient:
|8:00 AM||Brush Your Teeth – Wash Your Face – Eat Breakfast|
|————||School/Reading Time – Play Time – Free Time|
|12-00 PM||Lunch Time|
|————-||Outside Play Time|
|————-||Dinner – Bath time|
|7:00 PM||Brush Your Teeth – Wash Your Face – Bedtime|
This is not an exact chart that should be followed, just a nice place to help you start. You could also consider adding:
- Nap Time
- Snack Time
- TV or tablet time
- Pajama Time
- Or any other simple task
You can buy a whiteboard or print a chart that lists what times of day things are expected to be done. This will keep things flowing throughout the day and helps your child learn how to begin managing himself.
Using a schedule can help your child know exactly what is expected, have a place to refer to when they are unsure and keep them somewhat busy. Try to keep your everyday and weekend routine the same.
When things in a house and life are cluttered, it can easily make anyone overwhelmed. This is even more true for a child with hyperactivity.
Keeping everything organised will greatly help reduce chaos in your child’s mind. Every item in your house or the places where your child is most often should have a specific place.
Even adults feel better and more at ease when their home is clean and organised, so wouldn’t a child feel the same effects?
Source – ADDitude ADHD Parenting
Daily Tasks Made Easy
This also kind of goes along the lines of staying organised. Failure to plan for an everyday task can become overwhelming. Preparing things the night before your child goes to bed will reduce the whole household’s next morning stress levels.
As hard as it may seem sometimes, remember to keep calm. Your child is trying and probably struggling inside their head more than you know. Allowing your frustration to get the better of you, resulting in shouting or snapping at them, could set both of your whole days on the wrong track.
Morning Routine – School or work mornings can be rough. Taking advantage of preparing everything before bed will mean getting out the door in the morning quicker with far less stress for your child and you. Here are some tips:
- Leave them time to get up slowly – abrupt wakeups will be too harsh for them
- Lay clothes out. If your child is old enough, you can have them pick their clothes out.
- Have their lunch already packed.
- Make sure their homework was finished the night before, and their backpack is ready to go
- Place their shoes by the door or in some other consistent location
- Have a simple breakfast ready to go
Meal Planning – It is always a good idea to make things ahead of time just in case your child needs a little more attention one day compared to the next. Taking one day to pre-make a bunch of meal options will work out better in the long run. Here are a couple of snack ideas:
- Pre making French toast, pancakes, waffles, freezing them, heat them as needed
- Apples sliced put in lemon juice in the fridge
- Bake and then freeze muffins (you can sneak veggies in)
- Have fresh fruits and vegetables cleaned, cut, and stored in containers your child can easily grab and eat
Fun Activities To Do With Your Child
As mentioned a few times, as much as you are able, hyperactive children need to be kept busy. Playing games, reading stories together, and just interacting with your child is beneficial to their growth. Here are a few things you can do with your child:
- Board Games
- There are thousands of games and card games available.
- Playing with them and letting them know they may not always win is a good thing.
- They may have a meltdown, but letting them know they may sometimes lose will help prepare them for the real world.
- This can also prevent them from getting upset when they are at school or with friends.
- Work on reading facial expressions
- Children with certain conditions have trouble reading facial expressions and body language.
- Play with flashcards with faces on them that make all different expressions can help your child identify emotions
- Make it a game – make different faces at your child and see if they can correctly guess the feelings you’re trying to convey.
- This process will help them learn body language and other nonverbal cues
- Arts and crafts
- Cutting, drawing, and gluing are all fun tasks to help keep your child occupied.
- They can express themselves and feel proud of something they make something themself.
- Even something as simple as buttons, sequins, pom poms, or feathers glued onto construction paper is fun.
- Kids love to create.
Engage in whatever silly game that your child may want to play with you. If they make it up as they go, just go along with it. Anytime they can express themselves, they are releasing pent up energy and emotion.
That pent up energy and emotion could bottle up and explode if it isn’t released. Dance around, make silly faces, hop on one foot. Give them a safe place to be their goofy self.
Source – Flintobox – Activities & Games
Comforting Your Child
When your child feels overwhelmed, it can cause mental strain making a meltdown more likely. Calming your child before anything starts is a great way to stop meltdowns. It is healthy for us to learn self-care.
- A warm, calm bubbly bath can ease your child’s mind. Playing with the bubbles, warm water, and water toys are simple things that can help relax them.
- A short walk to get some fresh air and spend some quiet time one on one with you.
- Have little fidget toys around, so when your child starts to feel anxious, he or she can distract themselves. “Fidgets” come in many different styles and sizes. The work to distract the mind and allow them to focus on the simple toy.
- Your house should be calm, quiet, and cozy.
- Your child should be able to relax at home and feel at ease.
- Create a space just for them
- This can be a small, non-distracting space. It may be part of their bedroom or a corner of the living room.
- Put all their favorite toys or books in their space.
- Consider adding a comfy chair or bean bag and blankets. Some people even set up a play tent to give their child space to be fully away from everyone.
- This is their safe space. If your hyperactive child has siblings, keep them out of this special space unless she invites them in. Your special needs child should feel like it is only meant for him.
- While it is difficult for some with hyperactivity/ADHD to show affection, some children love affection from their parents.
- A simple hug, back rubs, or even stroking your child’s hair can help them feel reassured and calm.
Helping Your Child Learn About Their Feelings
Even though we just suggested it as a positive tool, hyperactive children can have trouble with affection. Knowing how to let their feelings out in a healthy way or correctly showing emotions can be a real challenge for them. They may not be able to read your emotions, “read the room,” or know when to start or stop speaking in a conversation.
A great start to helping them with their feelings is to talk to them about your feelings. Letting them know what each feeling means can help them understand their own emotions.
Always be their safe place to let them express any emotions they may have. Be very open with them and accept their feelings without dismissing them. Try to control your yelling, snapping, or telling them they have nothing to be sad over. Everyone gets upset over different things; that does not make them less important.
As hard as it may seem, control yourself when your child’s in the middle of a breakdown. They will learn, over time, how to cope with their feelings by following your example.
Why Setting Boundaries With Your Child Is Critical
Your child should know they are not in control of the house. Yes, they may have uncontrollable meltdowns some days, but if left to only do their own thing, those meltdowns will get worse.
You must be consistent in the way you act towards your child. The chores that they must do as a productive member of the family are important to their development. Do not give in to meltdowns. Your child will need more structure than children who don’t have this challenge. If your child thinks they can walk all over you, they will. Most children will take the proverbial mile if you give away the inch.
Always praise your child for jobs well done.
Chores. These should be simple and fit your child’s age and mental capability. Chores should not add stress to your child, but instead, make them feel empowered and proud.
You’d be surprised at just how much a child can do and how much they like it at a young age. While they are younger, it’s a fun game doing something grown-ups do. As they get older, they will be used to simply helping out so that it won’t be a fight to have them help.
Here’s a rough idea of what type of chores are age-appropriate:
|Toddlers 2 to 3 years old||Make the bed, clean up toys, wipe up spills they make|
|Preschoolers 4 to 5 years old||Set the table, put clothes away, clean up the room,|
|Young Kids 6 to 8 years old||Empty the dishwasher, wipe off counters, help pack their lunch|
|Pre-teens 9 to 12 years old||Vacuum, sweep, mop, help cook, collect trash from smaller baskets|
|Teenagers 13 years old and up||Help with laundry, cook easier meals alone, take the trash out, mow the lawn, rake the yard|
Balancing Picking Your Battles And Standing Firm
Life can be stressful for you and your child. While remaining in control, you should learn to pick and choose which battles you want to fight.
Is your child arguing about wearing a different shirt and getting emotional? Putting your foot down may not be worth it. You may not want your kid to walk over you, but if your child is visibly upset, is it worth making them wear the shirt already set out for them?
Try not to let the smaller things in life bother you or stop the day from flowing smoothly. Life is all about compromises. Children won’t always do what you expect of them. Let them know it’s perfectly fine. Try not to set your expectations higher than they can do.
It will be a fine line between keeping a schedule, a routine and still letting your child have some slack. You will slowly get into a new groove, and your family will function smoothly.
Conduct Research And Stand Behind Your Child
From the moment your child is diagnosed with any illness, you become your child’s advocate. You need to be their biggest cheerleader, always be in their corner, and fight for what’s best for them.
You will have teachers, doctors, and, unfortunately, lots of know-it-alls coming at you telling you what is best for YOUR child.
Friends and family may even tell you stories of how they knew of someone who had a kid that ended up just being a little hyper and how (fill in the blank) helped out or that your child is just bad. Let those comments go in one ear and out the other. They may mean well, but it isn’t helpful.
Never stop researching information about your child. It will be beneficial for when you meet with doctors or teachers.
You will know what you are talking about and know when things don’t seem right.
Having a hyperactive child can be very overwhelming. You should take in everything your child’s doctors say, but in the end, you are in control. If you get the feeling something isn’t right, speak up! Your child can’t.
Anyone watching your child should also know how to take care of anything that may come up. This will ensure they know how to appropriately handle the situation instead of treating your child like any other child. If a caretaker doesn’t know what your child needs, it could cause your child to have an emotional breakdown and feel scary for them.
Source – Everyday Health – Emotional Health
Take Care Of Yourself And Your Mental Health
Every caring parent will do whatever it takes to keep their kids healthy and happy. Parents tend to forget about themselves, though. To keep your family running smoothly, you need to take care of yourself.
Make sure you are eating, drinking water, and taking some time for yourself. It may seem silly, but self-neglect happens more often than you would think. As a parent, you give all of yourself to your child, leaving little behind for you. It can quickly destroy your mental health.
Do you have a strong support system from family and friends? If so, reach out and see if they can keep an eye on your child occasionally. There is no shame in taking a few minutes, hours, or even nights to yourself. As long as your child is safe, go do something for yourself.
It is also good to ask for help because it lets your child see it’s good to reach out for help. There are meetings around the world where families with the same circumstances get together, share stories, and let each other know they are not alone.
Do you have a hobby you have been putting off? Do you just want to take a nice, quiet, bubble bath? It truly doesn’t matter. Allow yourself to take a moment to regroup. It will make you feel better and help you be a better parent. When you are calmer, it will allow your child to feel calmer.
Source – Help Guide – ADHD Parenting
Out And In-Home Care
After your child is diagnosed with hyperactivity or some other condition, the doctor will go over some different steps you can take to help your child. These steps usually consist of different types of therapy and medication.
Most hyperactive children will go through CBT, otherwise known as cognitive-behavioral therapy. Some form of talk therapy is used to help your child learn to release their emotions. Occupational Therapy can also help your child manage their focus and concentration. You can also sign up to get videos, printables, and other occupational therapy resources here.
Different types of recommended therapy could be:
- In-home care
- Mobile therapy support
- Individualised therapy
Another step often taken to help calm the effects of hyperactivity is medication. Some children will need to take medication, but it is not always the case.
The medications given to your child will help to calm them. There may be risks to medications, so it’s a good idea to check into different therapies first. Medications should always be given exactly as prescribed by the doctor.
Whether you have access to in-home help or not, both personal and medication therapy can be immensely helpful to your child.
You know your child better than anyone. This guide is a great starting point to set your child up for a successful and much calmer life. Additionally, Ready Kids Virtual OT provides parents to access unlimited resources created by Occupational Therapists. Life may become stressful for a while, but you will know exactly what you are doing over time.
Keep in mind adults can also suffer from hyperactivity.
However, with a strong support system, your child will thrive. You can give them the tools they need to grow into an adult who can live a fully functional and happy life.
Remember to do your research, research, research! You will also feel a little less stressed knowing how to cope with your child and correctly help them.