"I Wish I Had Her Energy!"
Some children have naturally high energy and are constantly looking for stimulation. People might often look at your child and say "wow, if only I had her energy!" Maybe they would love your child's energy, but not the struggles that may accompany it. It can often make it difficult for the child to focus, be attentive, follow directions, and complete tasks. As their parent, you know it also includes impulsive decisions, constantly moving, not listening, being loud, and struggles to control emotions like anger and anxiety. Despite aunt Susan's "great advice" while making you feel like a less than adequate parent, you are still struggling to help your child manage their energy to be more successful in school and well-behaved at home. This is because its not as easy as the people from the outside think it is. I would like to provide you some tips to help your child be calmer and more controlled. However, before I do, its important to note that your child actually has a GIFT of being able to absorb high amounts of information at a high level. One problem for them though is that some of the information is not necessary, like noticing every flicker of a light or every movement in the room. Another problem is that its so much that their brain cannot process and organize the information fast enough. When understanding that, you can see why they become frustrated at times. You can also understand that when mom tells them to follow directions, it may be 1 of 1,000 pieces of information they are trying to process - so it may not be defiance, but your directions may be backlogged and they never processed what you asked of them. Let's get to the tips.
1. Create Structure And Routine: As I discussed, your child is trying to process high amounts of information (some irrelevant that others ignore like why the light is flickering) and struggling to do so. One of the best ways to help your child is to create an environment where there is naturally less to process. If your child knows what to expect throughout their day, it becomes automatic and provides less things to worry about. Make the routine simple and easy to follow. Let's be honest, this is so important for EVERY child.
2. Use Manageable One-Step Directions: Instead of giving your child directions that take numerous steps - like "clean your room"; give them one-step directions like "pick up all the trash in your room," then "pick up your clothes," then "make your bed." I know its a little more work for you, but simple directions are easier to focus on and complete for these children. When you say to clean your room, they begin to try to process all the steps that it entails - which ultimately probably becomes too overwhelming so they don't even start.
3. Limit Distractions: If your child isn't listening, have them go somewhere with limited distractions and have them look you in the eyes. Hold their hands and keep their gaze, then explain what needs to be done. As talked about before, they may have so much going on in their head that they aren't even processing what you are saying. Sometimes a walk outside or change of environment may break them out of a sense of overstimulation, but make sure its not a new space with even more distractions (television, games, etc.)
4. Exercise, Exercise, Exercise: If your child appears overwhelmed and overstimulated, encourage them to do some exercises like push-ups, jumping jacks, or stretching. In general, naturally high energy children need to engage in more outdoor and movement play. The best way to get them running around and to get energy out is to play with them. Sometimes its worth your 30 minutes of stopping what you are doing to run around with your child, then having them be overstimulated and energetic the entire day. Plus your engagement with them will naturally put them in a better mood.
5. Encourage Out-Loud Thinking: You may be thinking, I do not want to hear my already loud and energetic child talking out loud all day. I get it. However, again, they are not always processing their thoughts and sometimes acting without fully taking the time to think about it. Encouraging them to think out loud provides two things - it helps them to think about decisions before acting and allows you to hear their thought process so you can correct it before they do something impulsive.
There are many other strategies and tips that may help in your child's journey to become more calm, think before acting, be able to process information more efficiently, and limit unnecessary information from taking up head space. However, hopefully these few tips can get you started. If you and your child need additional support, Fortitude Children's Therapy may be able to provide the insight and tools you need to ensure your child reaches their full potential.