For parents, care giver and anyone who works with young people
About this factsheet
This is one in a series of factsheets for parents, teachers and young people entitled Mental Health and Growing Up. The aims of these factsheets are to provide practical, up-to-date information about mental health problems (emotional, behavioural and psychiatric disorders) that can affect children and young people. This factsheet looks at the reasons behind why some children are more restless and excitable than others, gives advice about how to deal with an overactive child, and suggests where to go to get extra help if you feel you are unable to cope on your own.
Young children are often restless and excitable. Their noisy liveliness is usually just a part of being young. Although it may be tiring, it is usually nothing to worry about.
Sometimes youngsters may be so active and noisy that it makes life difficult for their parents and other children. A child like this may be demanding and excitable, and chatter away nineteen to the dozen. They may be noisy, may not do as they are told, and will probably find it difficult to sit still. Adults may say that he's ‘hyperactive’, but the trouble with this word is that professionals use it to describe extreme, and sometimes dangerous behaviour, such as running out into a busy road.
What makes children overactive?
There are many things that can make a child overactive. The following should give you some guidance as to the reasons for your child's behaviour. Finding the reasons may help you to come up with some solutions to deal with them.
- Being a parent
If parents are unhappy, depressed or worried, they tend to pay less attention to their children. They may find they can't spend the time they need to help them play constructively, or they may find that when they do play with them, they spend a lot of time telling them to be quiet. Children learn from this that they have to be naughty or noisy to get any attention from their mum or dad.
- No clear rules
It is important to have simple rules about what is allowed and what is not. If two parents are involved, they both need to agree about the rules, and be consistent and fair when they say ‘no’. This will help the child to know what is expected and to learn self-control (see our Factsheets on good parenting and on behavioural and conduct problems).
- Child’s temperament
We are all born with different temperaments. Some children are livelier, noisier and more outgoing than others. They may prefer going out and being with other people than quietly reading a book or playing with toys by themselves. Quite often, children who are active like this are also excitable and may go over the top while playing. Although this can be a nuisance, it is nothing to worry about, but you may need some help in finding ways to help your child calm down.
- Learning and other problems
Some children find it hard to learn things that other children find easy. They may need special help at school. They may seem quite young for their age and find it hard to concentrate on work or control their behaviour as well as other children.
Some children may be affected by attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). If this is the case, seek help.
- Hearing problems
Glue ear (ear infections) is a common example of a hearing problem. If a child has glue ear, they will find it hard to hear what other people say, will tend to shout and may want the television turned up very loudly.
Some children do seem to react to certain foods by becoming restless and irritable. This is not as common as some people think, but occasionally it can be a real problem.
How can I get my child to calm down?
Try to make sure you spend time with your child on their own, so that they know you are interested in them. This will give you the chance to plan and praise.
Spend time with your children doing something they enjoy. Get into a routine and plan what they are going to be doing for the day or the weekend. It is helpful to arrange to have friends to come and play, (encouraging their social development) and gives you a break when they are invited back! It is also helpful to engage them in regular activities such as football or trampoline sessions, cubs, brownies etc. because this gives you a chance to meet other parents who can provide an informal support network. You can also make clear times when you expect them to play quietly on their own.
Take every opportunity to praise your child. Be as clear as possible. It is vital that they understand exactly what they have done to please you. For example, “you've been playing so quietly on your own … what a good boy you are” or “what a good footballer you are”.
Where can I get help?
Lively, excitable behaviour is a common problem for parents. Your health visitor will be used to giving advice about this. If there seems to be a problem with your child's hearing, or if there seems to be a reaction to foods, your general practitioner should be able to help and refer to a specialist if required. If they think that there might be a learning difficulty or a hyperactivity disorder, they will refer you to a clinical psychologist, paediatrician or Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) (see our factsheet on CAMHS).
YOG, particularly ASANAS can consume more of RESTLESS ENERGY in a child, sports and exercise can be good aid to channelize this energy. Using this energy in creative fields like art and craft, music, creative writing can slow down and stabilize the pace and psyche of the restless child. Avoiding fatty and junk food is best. Chewing 2 leaves of Ocimum Sanctum (Holy Basil leaves) twice a day can have an Ayurvedic effect making the child adaptive to stress. (Klub Psychology)
Source: The Leaflet Department, The Royal College of Psychiatrists
Adjunct information by: Klub Psychology
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