Parenting is never easy, and it can be even more challenging when your child has attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Without proper management, common ADHD symptoms can surface and quickly lead to meltdowns and behavioral issues. However, with care and attention, you can help your child manage even the most persistent symptoms. Learn how this disorder manifests in boys and girls, and discover how to calm a child with ADHD.
How ADHD Manifests in Children
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Children between 6 and 11 years old are most likely to be diagnosed with ADHD, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The disorder can manifest in both boys and girls. Yet boys are twice as likely to receive an ADHD diagnosis, and they tend to exhibit different symptoms.
Although boys do have symptoms like lack of focus and inability to sit still, they’re more likely to experience the physical, or hyperactive, signs of the disorder. In boys, ADHD often manifests itself in symptoms like:
- Impulsive actions.
- Excessive talking.
- Frequent interruptions.
- Physical aggression.
- Running, hitting, and other unfocused hyperactive behaviors.
In girls, ADHD is more likely to show itself via inattention-related symptoms. Although girls with ADHD are less likely to be disruptive, they may appear forgetful or lazy. In girls, the most common signs of ADHD include:
- Lack of focus and attention.
- Reduced self-esteem.
- Intellectual or cognitive issues.
- Verbal aggression.
10 Ways to Calm a Child With ADHD
No matter which symptoms your child exhibits, it’s important to help them manage these issues. With consistent care, you can help your child understand and control their attention and hyperactivity issues as they grow into a well-adjusted young adult. So how can you help your child manage feelings of hyperactivity or overwhelm? Take a closer look at 10 ways to calm a child with ADHD.
Strive for Balance
When you have a child with ADHD, the most important thing you can do is give your family life a sense of structure and balance. Naturally, a lack of balance can lead to extremes, which can cause symptoms to escalate quickly. In contrast, encouraging your child to sleep enough, eat healthy foods, and enjoy stress-free playtime can help them feel more stable.
Keep to a Consistent Schedule
Although spontaneity is important for parents and children, prioritizing a regular schedule can help kids with ADHD maintain a sense of calmness. Set a schedule for the family, and work with your child to create routines that work for them. Whenever possible, stick to what you’ve agreed upon so your child won’t have to struggle to adapt at a moment’s notice.
Set Expectations in Advance
When you set a routine for your family, talk it over with your child in advance. Each evening, discuss the next day’s schedule with your child and set expectations for their time, activities, and behavior. If you’re planning a break from the routine, such as a vacation or a move, start setting expectations weeks or months ahead of time so they can prepare for the change.
Allow Breaks and Rewards
Because many children with ADHD struggle with focus, it’s important to ensure that your schedule doesn’t test their limits constantly. Let your child know that you expect them to complete certain tasks in a particular order, and help them anticipate when they can take focus breaks. For example, you could encourage your child to run, jump, or dance for a few minutes in between homework problems.
Work Off Excess Energy
If you sense that your child is struggling with ADHD symptoms, give them an extra break, even if it goes against your normal routine. Offer some direction, such as running around the yard three times or dancing to their favorite song. Giving your child an opportunity to work off excess energy can stave off meltdowns and help with refocusing.
Redirect Excess Energy
When encouraging physical activity isn’t possible, help your child redirect instead. Keep a mental list of a few simple activities that can capture your child’s attention enough for them to forget about their train of thought. For example, you can play a guessing game or a few rounds of rock-paper-scissors while standing in line or sitting in a waiting room.
Choose Your Battles Carefully
As you work with your child, you might be tempted to monitor every behavior. Instead, reinforce good behavior and correct bad behavior, but only when you’ve set expectations beforehand. If your child is responsible for finishing homework before dinner, be satisfied when they complete their assignments on schedule. Resist the temptation to complain about related tasks that weren’t part of the agreement, such as putting away their school supplies neatly.
If you sense that a meltdown is around the corner, refrain from reprimanding your child. Instead, ask them what’s wrong, and encourage them to verbalize how they feel. Acknowledge what they say and confirm that you can understand why they’re upset. Simply showing your child that you’re on their side can help them feel calmer and more in control.
Maintain a Sense of Calmness
No matter how hard you try, your child is bound to feel overwhelmed from time to time. Although you can’t always control meltdowns, you can be responsible for your reaction to these episodes. Rather than getting angry or yelling, remind yourself to stay cool and speak to your child quietly and calmly. Your positive behavior can prevent the situation from escalating and can encourage your child to calm down, too.
Teach Your Child Self-Calming Techniques
As your child matures, you can expect them to learn how to self-calm, too. Encouraging deep breaths and teaching them to count to 10, 20, or even 100 can help your child regain control and feel calm, even after the most serious ADHD triggers.
If you think your child has ADHD, you don’t have to manage their condition alone. The NeuroHealth Arlington Heights team is here to help. Learn about ADHD testing and take the first step toward getting your child the help they need to succeed.