Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. Children with ADHD can have trouble sitting still, staying focused, controlling their behavior and managing their emotions. This can lead to major difficulties at home, school and in social settings.
As a parent, it can be frustrating and exhausting trying to calm a child who seems constantly wound up, distracted or temperamental. However, by understanding your child’s needs, making adjustments, and having the right tools and techniques, you can help your child learn to self-soothe and bring themselves to a calmer state. Here are some tips:
Structure Routines and Transitions
Children with ADHD thrive on structure and routine. Create regular daily schedules for meals, homework, play time and bedtime. Use timers, schedules and clocks to help signal transitions between activities. Prepare your child in advance before switching gears to help them adjust. Consistent routines can be comforting and reduce anxious energy.
Provide Frequent Breaks
Sitting still for long stretches can be very difficult for kids with ADHD. During lengthy tasks at school or home, make sure to build in frequent breaks to get up and move around. This can help satisfy their need to fidget or expend pent-up energy. Just a few minutes of physical activity or play can help them focus better afterwards.
Encourage Movement and Exercise
Make time every day for plenty of physical play and exercise, which can help your child burn off excess energy and frustration. Play games that get their bodies active or have them help with chores like walking the dog or washing the car. Set up an indoor obstacle course with pillows, couch cushions and toys. The key is keeping them engaged and mobile.
Use Calming Spaces and Objects
Create special corners or spaces in your home where your child can go to decompress and settle themselves down, like cozy bean bag chairs, padded mats or tents. Have them gather comforting objects like stuffed animals, soft blankets music players or coloring books that they can keep in their calming spaces to promote relaxation through their senses.
Teach Breathing and Relaxation
When children get overly excitable, anxious or emotional, breathing exercises can help lower stress and regain control. Teach techniques like having them slowly inhale through their nose while counting to 5, hold for a few counts, then exhale gradually out the mouth. Use visualizations, like asking them to pretend they are smelling a flower then blowing out a candle. Do this repeatedly until calm.
Use Fidget Toys and Tools
Let your child keep special gadgets and toys designed for fidgeting hands on hand to occupy their need to move. Items like stress balls, Play-Doh, cube puzzles, snap beads or textured tangle toys can give their restless fingers a productive and calming outlet. Having tactile objects to manipulate can satisfy their sensory stimulation needs.
Play Soothing Music
Creating a relaxing environment through sound can dramatically help calm ADHD children. Play tranquil instrumental music (piano, guitar, harp) during activities that require sitting still. Softer acoustic sounds are preferable to vocal lyrics. Allow them to wear noise cancelling headphones and listen to calming music if they are feeling overwhelmed.
Avoid Sensory Overload
Kids with ADHD often struggle filtering too much stimuli and can get easily bombarded and irritated by loud volumes, big crowds, bright lighting or chaotic spaces. Be aware of your child’s sensory sensitivities that can quickly send them into a meltdown. Help them recognize when they are approaching overstimulation and give them an escape to a quiet grounded space.
Use Positive Reinforcement
When your child demonstrates good self-control, appropriate behavior or concentrated focus for any duration, be sure to take note and praise their efforts. Positive reinforcement increases motivation and self-esteem. Compliment them on specific achievements like sitting through story time, completing homework without distraction or playing quietly on their own while you were occupied.
Make Time for One-on-One Connection
Children with ADHD often act out to get attention from busy parents. Make special time each day to connect one-on-one, even if just 15-20 minutes. Talk, play games, read stories or share an activity without screens or distractions. This quality time validates their worth and can greatly meet their emotional needs to prevent negative behaviors.
Managing a child with ADHD can be demanding, but implementing structure around their needs and nurturing their self-regulation skills can help. With patience and compassion, parents can find ways to help calm children down while also building up their confidence. Paying attention to triggers, providing outlets and teaching coping methods gives kids the tools to thrive.