ADHD or Hyperkinetic Disorder is dubbed as the most typical behavioural disorder in the UK, affecting 5-10% of children and adolescents (BBC-Health). Symptoms of ADHD include excessive inattentiveness, impulsiveness and hyperactivity. However, there are other conditions that may present similar symptoms in young children, such as sleep deprivation, thyroid problems, sudden life changes, lead poisoning, depression and even poor working memory. Whatever the actual cause, many children are easily distractible, fidgety, and have fleeting attention spans at one time or another. Parents don’t have to wait for a diagnosis of ADHD before they do something to reduce the occurrence of these symptoms. Here are some suggestions that can easily be carried out at home.
Establish a daily structure and routine.
Structuring the daily routines and activities of your child is tremendously beneficial in reducing ADHD-like symptoms. Set a time and place for homework, meals, chores, play, rest and other things your child needs to do such as preparing for school. Organise the home environment, making sure that your child maintains a proper place for everything. Posting a schedule where your child can constantly refer to it is very effective. The predictability of having a time and place for daily activities enhances your child’s awareness and expectations of his goals, and guides his behavioural responses to any given situation.
Make sure your child gets plenty of exercise.
One of the safest and most effective means of reducing the symptoms of ADHD is exercise. Physical activity instantly enhances the production of certain brain chemicals, including dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine, which are instrumental in maintaining focus and attention. Engaging in dance, martial arts, gymnastics and team games were proven to be ideal in reducing symptoms. What makes exercise so great is the fact that it’s free, and at the same time, has no negative side effects.
Make sure your child gets proper nutrition.
Eating the right kind of food at the right time can help decrease ADHD-like symptoms. Meals and snacks should always contain some complex carbohydrates (ex. whole-grain bread) and a bit of protein so your child becomes more energetic without increasing hyperactivity. Avoid junk food and foods that are high in sugar and additives / preservatives. Meals and snacks should be taken every three to four hours to maintain your child’s blood sugar level, thus promoting better focus and concentration while reducing irritability.
Give your child appropriate mineral supplements.
A lot of children with ADHD do not have adequate amounts of iron, zinc and magnesium in their bodies. Providing them with supplements for these minerals, particularly iron, has been proven to be quite beneficial in reducing the manifestation of symptoms. Deficiency in these minerals may be contributing to your child’s ADHD-like symptoms.
Establish regular sleeping patterns.
Setting and enforcing a regular bedtime schedule for your child can cause great improvements in ADHD symptoms. Since most children with ADHD have difficulty sleeping at night, it helps to set a regular time when you expect your child to be in bed. Shutting down all electronics, such as television, computers, tablets, and mobile phones an hour before bedtime can do wonders in helping your child fall asleep quicker. You may also limit your child’s activity at night, in preparation for a quiet and restful sleep.
Limit electronic time.
Experts agree on limiting your child’s exposure to TV, video games, and computers, especially if he shows ADHD-like symptoms. TV viewing for children below two years is highly discouraged while a maximum of two hours a day of exposure is recommended for older children. No more than one hour a day for electronic entertainment is considered acceptable. More productive alternatives to electronic time which can enhance attention skills are board games, block play, puzzles and reading together.
Set boundaries and consequences and enforce them consistently.
Clearly discuss your expectations and the parameters of acceptable behaviour with your child. Set definite boundaries that would guide your child’s behaviour and give him no room for doubtful and wrong interpretations. Set realistic and proportionate consequences, such as withdrawal of a privilege, an added chore, or experiencing the natural consequence of negative behaviour (ex. cleaning up a mess after throwing some things around) for non-compliance. It is important for these consequences to be enforced consistently, convincing your child of their inevitability and prompting him to try harder to avoid them.
Reward even the smallest of steps towards positive behaviour.
Be on the watch for positive behaviour from your child. Whenever he does something positive, even if it is just a little step towards the performance of desired behaviour, immediately provide a reward. Such reward may be in the form of a tangible treat (selected by child), a preferred activity, praise, a smile, or positive attention. Providing an immediate reward acknowledges your child’s efforts, though yet imperfect. This will reinforce your child’s desirable traits, increasing the chances of such behaviour being repeated in the future.
Be patient with your child.
Often, it will seem that your tactics are not working. Your child may respond inconsistently to your efforts. There may be times when your child doesn’t seem to be making any progress at all. Remember that your child is struggling with a formidable adversary within himself. If he doesn’t make as much progress as you wish, be patient and simply continue your system of realistic goals, consistent rewards and consequences, and unconditional love for your child. Your efforts will surely be rewarded in time.
Show appropriate behaviour and reactions to situations.
Being the most significant person in your child’s life, you exert more influence over your child than you are sometimes aware of. How you conduct yourself, how calmly you cope with unexpected situations or how agitated you become, how well you listen to others, and how much you yourself pay attention, are but a few behaviours parents engage in that serve as guides for their children and how they will choose to behave. Let us be the first to live out the virtues and practices that we ourselves expect from our children.
With proper management, many children with full-blown ADHD will experience a reduction in symptoms. While we may be unable to do anything about inheriting the gene for developing ADHD, or in some cases, passing it on, still there are many ways we can do to reduce the chances of the ADHD developing into a more serious condition.