How to help your hyperactive child

It can be overwhelming and chaotic when your child has more energy than you, especially when they do not have a productive, safe outlet for all of their energy. This is even more common in children with ADHD, ADD, and other developmental disorders. Learning to how to care for a hyperactive child is important for  both you and your child’s wellbeing. Try using the below strategies with your energetic child:

Accept it

The normal attention span for a child is between 3 to 5 minutes per year of age.  For example, a child that is three years old should be able to focus on sitting and coloring anywhere from 9 to 15 minutes.  A hyperactive child has difficulties focusing on tasks, remembering verbal information, is restless, and impulsive.  It is important to understand that their hyperactive behavior is not intentional or your fault and may be behavior that they always display.  The sooner you accept  reality, the quicker you can focus on effectively helping your child rather than remaining disappointed or frustrated by setting unrealistic goals.

Keep Them Moving

Hyperactive children always on the move.  Instead of restricting their movements, allow your child to exert some of the built up energy.  Activities that are good for a good energy release are exercise such as running or swimming, or exploring the outdoors.  Be mindful that you are not encouraging hyperactive behavior however.  For example, do not have a wrestling match with your child because it is a high energy activity often.  This can teach your child that this is the way to engage with others.   When the outdoors are unavailable, have a room or area for your child they can play in with little to no restrictions that is safe.  They can play alone and enjoy their own company, but make sure they do not have too many toy options.  Since children that are hyperactive have a hard time focusing, too many toys options can be distracting.  The goal is to encourage the child to be able to focus on laying with just one toy.

Stick to a Routine

Creating a structured schedule for your child can be very helpful.  Being hungry or sleepy often worsens the hyperactive behaviors that children display, so sticking to a schedule ensures that your child is getting the adequate amount of sleep and food intake.  When hyperactive children are sleepy, they often lack even more self control.  Creating a schedule also gets the child used to the routine and making their behavior more predictable.  

Expand their Attention Span

A hyperactive child’s attention span may never be normal, but there are ways to increase their attention span.  You can do this by setting aside time in our daily routine to focus on an activity such as puzzles, building, reading stories, or playing a board game.  Set aside time in your daily routine to do homework as well and chores.  Whenever you are engaging in an activity that requires undivided attention, break the times down into shorter time periods.  For example, if homework usually takes an hour for your son to do, work on homework for 15 minutes 4 times with breaks in between.  If your 4 year old has trouble sitting still while listening to stories, start off with using books with mostly pictures and gradually increasing the amount of words and time dedicated to reading as your child becomes better at sitting for stories.  Make sure that you give your child lots or praise in the ways that they like when they are paying attention to you or the task at hand.  Be sure to keep the house or area quiet and clutter free to limit distractions.  This is a slow process, but worth the work, dedication, and consistency.