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Excitable, overactive and difficult to calm children: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

 

This information is aimed at very young children up to the age of about five or six. Excitable, overactive and difficult to calm children are in the news at the moment. Everyone seems to know about ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and very often when a child is over excitable and difficult to settle, parents and teachers wonder about ADHD.


ADHD is not often diagnosed in children under the age of four or five because it is difficult to separate out normal over excitable behaviour from ADHD. There is also the question of whether drugs such as Ritalin should be given to such young children.


Having said that, it is quite normal for young children to be unsettled, over-excitable and difficult to calm at times. If you have this problem you may like to read other leaflets in this series as well as this. I have listed some at the bottom of this article.


Young children are full of energy. Their bodies are growing, they are discovering new and exciting things in the world and having to struggle with new situations and events without the sophisticated skills and understanding of the world that adults have. We have all seen how excited young children become at birthday parties, or how difficult it is for them to contain their excitement and pleasure on Christmas day. Often this is wonderful to experience - sometimes though, their bursts of energy and excitability can be exhausting - particularly if you are tired or just not in the mood for it at that time.


Children are driven much more by their feelings than adults. They have not developed the social skills and awareness adults have. It takes a long time to build up these skills in your children and teaching them these skills will help them develop better self-control and social skills in their later life. Being a parent is hard work at times, but do look around at other parents with young children who will be experiencing similar difficulties at times too. Parents are very good at thinking, it is only they who have such difficulties, particularly if you are feeling isolated and depressed.


Children's temperaments vary enormously. It is not uncommon for parents to have one child who is very easy going and calm and another who is much more challenging. Some characteristics of our temperament are genetic, some is learnt. Children with a lively temperament will need greater help in controlling it and will present a bigger challenge to parents. In some situations a lively temperament will be a positive asset to a child. They may be more outward going, maybe enjoy sports and physical activities and have lots of friends. In other situations they can become a nuisance and may have difficulties in nursery or school.


Once a child starts school if they have difficulties there in coping, it is worth while discussing this with the class teacher and school doctor. Children who have mild hearing difficulties often become loud (for obvious reasons) but sometimes they can become difficult and withdrawn. This is because they cannot hear and follow instructions as well as other children. They can become quite frustrated and start feeling stupid and fall behind the rest of the class. Because their hearing difficulty is slight, it can be missed by teachers. In my work with children who have difficulties in school, it is surprising how many children have had mild (but significant in terms of its effect) hearing difficulties such as "glue ear".


Children who have speech and language difficulties can also become over excitable and upset. The school or your doctor can refer you to a speech and language therapist for help. Very often, children who have difficulties at school hold their feelings in until they get home. When they get home, into a safer environment, it all comes pouring out in "acting out" behaviour. Acting out behaviour means acting out your feelings through t