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Overactive children

There is no doubt that a substantial proportion of children are overactive and some may be described as suffering from ‘Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder’ as this condition is now called. But quite a lot of children who are difficult to manage, and who have problems concentrating are not necessarily overactive too.

Alternatively, some children may suffer from a mild form of hyperactivity only. So, the difficulty for parents, and sometimes for health professionals, is deciding what are ‘normal’ behaviour problems in a child and what are symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder which require early treatment and management.

Below are some tips on managing an active child. If these, or the other information in this chapter on dealing with difficult behaviour, do not help then talk to your health visitor or GP. You can also obtain information from the Hyperactive Children’s Support Group.

  • Keep to a daily routine as much as you can. Routine can be important if your child is restless or difficult. Routine may also help you stay calmer and stand up better to the strain.

  • Make giving your child time and attention a part of the routine. In different ways, your child may be demanding your attention most of the day, if not most of the night as well. A lot of the time you’ll have to say ‘no’. This is easier to say, and may be easier for your child to accept, if there are certain times each day when you do give all your attention to your child.

  • Avoid difficult situations as much as you can – for example, by keeping shopping trips short. It’s often no good even expecting an overactive difficult child to sit still at meals or behave well in a supermarket. And try lowering your expectations. Start by asking your child to be still, or controlled, or to concentrate, for a very short time. Then gradually build up.
  • Try to get out every day to a place where your child can run around and really let go. Go to a park, or a playground, or whatever safe, open space there is. Find ways of helping your child burn off energy.
  • Try cutting out cola drinks, tea and coffee. These drinks all contain caffeine. Some children are sensitive to this and it can make them ‘jumpy’. So you could try cutting them out and see if it helps.

We are indebted to Health Promotion England for their help in compiling this section.