Hyperactivity in children can be a touchy subject. Some doctors seem to quickly diagnose just about any attention or hyperactivity problem as ADD or ADHD and put the child on medication to counteract it. Parents who are seeking the help of doctors are usually at their wits end and don’t have a clue what to do next to help their hyperactive child. The medication they are put on seems to help at first, if you can get over the fact that the child is a walking zombie. Eventually it’s effectiveness wears off and they are put on a different med starting the process all over again. There are newer meds now that have a more subtle effect but my point is we should make sure medication is a last resort because it isn’t healthy for our children and because at least some of the time hyperactivity can be corrected by a change of diet and some natural remedies.
This article is in no way encouraging you to stop any meds or discontinue medical attention, there is a place for these things and stopping any medication without a doctors advice can be very harmful. Please, if your child is already seeing a physician and is already on medication, talk to the doctor about what you would like to try and see what he/she says. These techniques are only to give you alternatives and choices in treatments to see if the child really needs medical attention or if they just need to be more in balance. These techniques will not be as effective for all hyperactive children, there are different causes of hyperactivity and attention deficits in children and treating the cause is the key in helping the child become well adjusted. These techniques will be more effective for some than others, depending on your child’s particular situation and chemistry, but for some they can be a miracle. These are techniques we used with our son and have had good success with them so far. It is always an ongoing battle to stay on top of hyperactivity and attention issues but sometimes a holistic approach can make a difference.
Diet should be the first thing we check and start to modify. It is the easiest to start with and sometimes is all that is needed. Start by tracking your child’s meals in a journal or notebook. Keep a daily log of everything your child eats including snacks and treats. Start looking for trends when they are exhibiting bad behavior, see what they have eaten that day and see if the worst days correspond to any particular food or treat. Your child may have an allergy to a certain food or substance or they may just be sensitive to sugar and other nutrients. Some children are particularly sensitive to certain dyes and artificial flavors. In your journal, keep one page for each day and put a happy face or sad face on that page signifying the kind of day your child had. Over time, as we modify the diet, be on the lookout for any behavioral changes good or bad and how they correlate to the new food choices. Keep notes at the bottom of the journal page about any observations.
Start cutting out the artificial sugars from your child’s diet. Children get wired very easily on sugar and with today’s diets and available meal choices they get more artificial sugar every day than we may think. Sugar is in almost everything so it is hard to cut it out totally but just make a conscious effort to cut out as much as you can. Sugary snacks and treats should be replaced with healthy sweet snacks such as natural fruit, yogurt, and low sugar granola.
If your child eats school provided meals it is especially hard to control what they eat. Start by watching closely what they eat at home and if their diet needs more modification you can send them to school with a lunch box or sack lunch. School lunches are too often junk food and full of sugar and artificial stuff. This can have an effect on a child’s behavior in itself. My sons school lunches are typically pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers, nachos, corn dogs, etc. They do usually include a vegetable which is good, but their fruit is typically canned fruit with tons of artificial sugar in it. One thing that helped is when we convinced him to drink plain milk instead of chocolate milk, he wanted to be able to be good so much he would try almost anything, even giving up his beloved chocolate milk when we weren’t there to monitor him.
Once you have cut out all of the artificial sugars and substances that you can from your child’s diet, look back in your journal and see if they have made any progress and chart how much. For some children this may be all they need, for others there may need to be further modification. Feed your child foods high in omega3 like fish more often, this seems to help them focus better. A very good snack that is high in omega3, if your child will go near them, is sardines. My son loves sardines and I would much rather he eat them than a cupcake or candy bar.
Make sure your child is getting enough fiber in their diet, insufficient fiber can cause stomach and intestine irritation, uneasiness, pain, and irregular bowel movements that can make your child act out or be fidgety. Plenty of fruits and veggies will usually do the trick but if your child’s digestion doesn’t regulate on its own you may need to look into some high fiber cereals or child’s fiber supplements. Metamucil makes great tasting fiber wafers that are a great treat with milk. If your child’s bowels still aren’t responding to the changes you may need them to see a doctor to make sure there is nothing serious wrong.
Once you have done all of the diet modifying you can, if you still are having behavioral difficulties with your child start looking into some natural herbal remedies to help them to be able to focus and be calm more. There are lots of herbs that will help promote a calm, peaceful state within your child, but make sure whatever you give them is dosed specifically for children. There is a lot of herbal remedies out there dosed for adults and including a lot of alcohol which wouldn’t be good for a child. Find a good child’s calming herbal supplement and couple that with a good omega3 supplement. Make sure the omega3 supplement you chose has DHA and GLA in it, this seems to help some. There are a lot of omega3 supplements out there that do not contain the GLA so read the labels carefully.
Calming and focus herbs include Chamomile, Gotu Kola, Catnip, Licorice Root, Anise Fruit, Hawthorn Berry, and others. The supplement you choose may have these and other herbs in them but most products include different mixtures of herbs and in different amounts so a little experimenting will help you get it just right. Try one set of supplements and see how they affect your child’s behavior. Adjust the dosage accordingly in order to maximize its benefit. Do not raise the dosage too high, anything in too large quantities is bad. If one set of supplements isn’t doing the trick try a different formula or supplement mixture until you find something that works. Be very careful when mixing supplements, make sure the complimenting products do not have any of the same active ingredients to avoid over dosing on a certain herb or nutrient.
One thing to remember when using focus and calming herbs to treat hyperactivity in children is that it usually takes a period of days or weeks for the substances to get built up in their system enough to notice a big improvement. Be patient when charting your progress, and don’t get discouraged if the behavior doesn’t improve dramatically right away. This is as much a learning experience for the child as it is for you so take your time, let all your child’s teachers and officials know what you are doing to treat them and ask for their help in school and after school activities.
Some will say if a child is disciplined properly they won’t act up. Yes discipline does play a role in your child’s behavior but sometimes they really are trying to be good and just need a little help. Try to incorporate discipline into your routine that helps your child get rid of energy and refocus on the task at hand. When my son is doing homework and gets too fidgety to pay attention I say ok get up for a minute and jog in place, or go out in the back yard and run around the yard 2 times or something along those lines. It gives him a focus break, expels some energy, and he is usually able to focus more and sit still after. Some of the teachers at his school have even incorporated this into their discipline styles. Even a short stretching break can help a lot. Make sure your child is getting plenty of exercise during play time, if they get lots of physical exercise they are a little less likely to be fidgety.
Make a reward program for your child. Charting your child’s progress and making him or her a part it can help greatly. Make a chart to stick on the wall or door that charts your child’s behavior. Make sure they understand that when the chart shows good improvement they get a treat or surprise of some kind. Have your child help you come up with some rewards that would be appropriate as well as some disciplines that would also be appropriate and make sure they understand they are agreeing to the terms and must abide by them. They will be able to see whenever they want how they are doing and what they need to improve on.
Be patient and stick with your efforts and you will see some success. Look in the links section for a link to some helpful products, things I have used with success. Some children will still need medication but these techniques will help you determine that for sure. Good luck, I know how heart breaking it is when our children are trying as hard as they can and just can’t seem to function as they need to. I hope these steps will help you in your life.