The hyperactive children themselves, (especially those who are anxious) have a particular need for a peaceful environment and calm handling. As they are bundles of kinetic-energy-about-to-explode, they will set the whole family alight unless their turbulence is contained. The trouble is, because hyperactivity seems to be a genetic disorder, at least one of the parents probably has as flammable a temperament as the child. Adopted children have a decided advantage here, as their parents are probably calmer. As someone so rightly said, “A hyperactive child needs a calm, placid cow for a mother!” A hyperactive individual, whether a child or an adult, is naturally highly-strung, irritable, impatient, short-tempered and intolerant – often anxious and prone to panic. Hopefully, as they grow up, they learn to control and inhibit these traits, but it takes lots of effort and self-discipline. If we, adults, struggle to keep our cool, how can we expect our offspring to manage? We have to show them how! We have to teach them by example.
Here are a few tips which we have found helpful:
- Deliberately keep the pitch of your voice low. Listen to the way other people speak. A high pitched voice expresses and generates tension. Lower pitched tones are more soothing to anybody’s ear.
- Speak slowly. Rapid speech seems to raise the pulse and rate of breathing in the listener, resulting in a generally increased tempo in the atmosphere.
- Remember that your child is very sensitive to the tone of your voice. A simple statement like, “Don’t do that”, can be said in a dozen different ways, depending on the tone. Keep it as bland and unemotional as possible.
- Think BEFORE you answer your child. So often one speaks and the immediately thinks, “I should NOT have said that!”, or maybe one should just have phrased it differently. Try and develop the habit of pausing for a second or two, to give yourself a chance to think. This IS usually very difficult, but you WILL improve with effort.
- Try and see the humour of the situation! If it were someone else’s child, you’d probably find his escapade funny. Maybe in the future, you’ll look back and laugh. Lighten up a bit and laugh NOW! If you can’t laugh yet, try a smile.
- Wherever possible, avoid explosive or conflict situations. Learn to recognise the signs of escalating excitement or conflict and COOL IT! Use techniques of distraction or “time-out”. Fights, tantrums, unbridled excitement etc are far easier to curb in the earlier stages. Do not waive your authority as a parent, but try not to get trapped into conflicts. No-one REALLY wins in such situations, just try and maintain dignity.
- Playing restful, slow-beat music often calms the frazzled nerves (not just yours!) Play a soothing tape/CD in the late afternoon when everyone’s tired and stressed, you’re trying to get supper done and see to the child/ren’s homework and you JUST DON’T NEED any tantrums now!
- Install and try to stick to (within reason) a routine. ADD children need the structure and security of a daily routine. Temperamental behaviour often happens when normal routine is disrupted.
- We need regular exercise. Regular, rigorous exercise is essential for hyperactive children. It regulates bodily functions and releases natural, calming chemicals, which help them to feel good.
- Try to keep a little detached. Don’t allow yourself to be dragged down to kiddie-level. After all, someone has to be cool-headed and in charge – it might as well be you!
- The appropriate eating pattern which ADHASA advises, does wonders to keep the family on an even keel. Members have often said that the eating programme changed their family dynamics for the better.
- Last, but not least, don’t get discouraged. If you’ve had a bad day and really “blown your stack”, put it firmly behind you. Try and analyse why things got out of control and how you can avoid it happening again. Then start afresh!