Help Your Child Focus: Decreasing Hyperactivity and Distraction

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Our modern, busy lifestyles often lead to an unintended consequence for our kids. Rushing from one activity to another, grabbing less-than-nutritious meals along the way, and spending lots of time on screens and not enough on exercise and sleep can all quickly add up to kids who are scattered, unfocused, and even hyperactive.

boy with ADHDThe good news is it’s not actually that hard to get things back on track for your child. Things that really make a difference for helping kids stay calm and to focus better are all things we know we should do anyway—but we don’t always make them a top priority. Research shows diet, exercise, sleep, a good structure at home (including limits on screen time) all work together to help kids’s brains to function better and can lead to less hyperactivity.  Here is a cheat sheet that gives you a quick guide to what to do…. and what to avoid.

DO DON’T
Diet Eat lots of protein, especially at breakfast Allow lots of sugar
Vitamins Get antioxidant vitamins (A, C, E), boost B vitamins and omega-3s; consider taking iron, magnesium, and zinc Start a big vitamin routine without blood work first.  Work with your pediatrician to find out what your child needs
Exercise Get exercise daily; 20 minutes improves sleep, attention, memory, neurological function Force your kids to do activities they don’t like; running around the neighborhood is just as good as playing an organized soccer game
Sleep Be sure your child is getting enough sleep (at least 10 hours a night for kids 12 and younger) by establishing and sticking to a regular bedtime Allow access to phones, tablets or laptops in your child’s bedroom after bedtime
Daily Routine Set up and follow through on a regular daily routine so your child knows what to expect; this helps kids regulate themselves and plan ahead Overschedule your child. If you’re running from one thing to another four nights a week, you might need to cut some activities to help the routine function better for your family
Screen Time Establish and enforce daily screen time limits for TV, tablets, phones, and computers Allow screen time for one hour or less before bedtime; it suppresses brain chemicals that help us sleep deeply

As with most things, moderation and common sense are the keys here. If you’ve focused on these systematically for a good couple of months and aren’t seeing much of a change in your child’s hyperactivity, it might be time to talk with your child’s teacher and pediatrician. Medication and other interventions are available too, and can make a big difference; but starting with ensuring your child’s basic needs are met first is a key first step.

References:

Dunckley, Victoria L. “Reduce ADHD Symptoms Naturally With These Five Steps.” Psychology Today. 11/16/2014. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mental-wealth/201411/reduce-adhd-symptoms-naturally-these-five-steps

Shroff, Anita. WebMD. 2/28/2014. “How Much Sleep Do Children Need?” http://www.webmd.com/parenting/guide/sleep-children

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