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Ten Things To Remember If You Have A Child With ADHD

Ten Things To Remember If You Have A Child With ADHD

Having a child with ADHD is hard for most parents. Let’s face it, there aren’t many of us proudly telling other parents “Oh yes, my child has ADHD, and I’m so proud of him. It is such hard work, but it’s so rewarding”. It’s exhausting, never-ending and not for the faint-hearted. Because of the stigma attached to ADHD, most parents tell very few people. ADHD is often linked with other issues such as dyslexia, oppositional defiant disorder, sensory processing disorder, and a whole heap of other “labels,” so parents can find themselves feeling even more overwhelmed and lost in a morass of labels and confusion.

When you type ADHD into Google, a mere 58,100,000 results come back, and I can guarantee you that the majority of them will be negative, scary and gloomy. On the first page of Google results, ADHD is described as a brain disorder or a mental disorder involving neurodevelopment – talk about focusing on the negatives! However, there are so many positives to this type of personality that aren’t always discussed or highlighted among stressed and overwhelmed parents.

There is a legend that the Native Americans couldn’t see Christopher Columbus’s ships sailing to shore. It’s said that because they’d never seen anything like this before, their minds simply couldn’t process the information and their brains wouldn’t allow their eyes to see the ships. As the story goes, one man noticed ripples in the ocean, so every day he would watch the ripples, until eventually he could spot the ships.

Once he spotted the ships, he told all other the Native Americans, and then they too could see the ships. Now, where am I going with this? I’m telling you this because if your child has ADHD, like most other parents, you have probably spent an enormous amount of time sifting through some of the 58,100,000 Google results, and you are probably feeling sad, confused, overwhelmed and scared for the future of your ADHD child.

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Well, today, I would like you to think of yourself as one of those Native Americans, and I’m man who has just seen the ships. It may be hard for you to see the ships, and I totally understand that it could take some time, but just allow yourself for the next few minutes to open your mind to a more positive side of ADHD.

1. Learn about all the people in the world who are thriving with ADHD

There are so many amazing people on this planet right now who have ADHD and are thriving. There are so many writers, musicians, artists, actors, athletes and entrepreneurs who have ADHD and have learned to see it as a gift. They have learned how to use this “superpower” as their ultimate positive trait, and they are thriving in life. And it’s not just grown-ups, there are children and teenagers with ADHD who are making a mark in this world and sharing their journeys. Start to read about these people, gain knowledge about them, and empower yourself. Then you can empower your child and watch their confidence grow. Try searching Google for things like: “ADHD is my superpower,” “Thriving with ADHD,” and “ADHD kids rock.” You get the drift!

2. Discover who you are

There are so many parents who discovered they had ADHD after their child was diagnosed. I’m not suggesting that every parent who has a child with ADHD has ADHD themselves, but it’s becoming more recognised that the little ADHD apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Think about who you were as a child. What did you parents say? What did your school reports say about you? Were you a drifter or a wanderer? Remembering who you were and discovering who you are now could help not only yourself but also your child. And, better still, it may strengthen your bond with them. Remember the saying, “birds of a feather flock together.” Maybe you and your child have more in common than you think!

3. Help your child to find his or her passion

I know it’s hard when you feel that you can spend most of your day either screaming at you child or wanting to scream at him or her, but take some time to discover your child’s strengths. Does he or she like art, nature, or building things? Is your child good at running, dancing, or gymnastics? There was a little boy in America named Pierson Feeney (he’s one of the positive ADHD searches you should type into Google). His mum noticed that he would constantly move his feet and that he found it difficult to concentrate in school. Medication didn’t work for Pierson, so his desperate mum decided to try something different. She enrolled him into a dance school, and the rest, as they say, is history. Pierson now dances after school every day, and because of his love of dancing, he has learned how to focus on something he loves. He is now able to focus more in school and is thriving in life – for Pierson, ADHD is his greatest asset!

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4. Don’t feel embarrassed when talking to teachers

Michael Phelps, the Olympic swimmer, has won 23 gold medals, but when he was younger, he couldn’t concentrate in school. His mother was told by his teacher that Michael couldn’t focus on anything, yet he has gone on to be the most decorated Olympian of all time. He couldn’t concentrate in the classroom, but he could focus on swimming, and like Pierson, through his passion, he learned how to focus. Instead of talking about what your child can’t do, ask the teachers to explore what they are good at. Are they good at sports? Are they are a fast runner? A good singer? Do they have rhythm or a good ear for music, or do they have artistic talents? Oftentimes, kids with ADHD are very creative. Ask the school to work with you to find your child’s passion. If they are good at something, their confidence will grow, and they will thrive – this could be the thing that makes them succeed!

5. Accept what it is and go with it

So many parents want to try and change their child, and this could simply be because of peer pressure. We all want to conform and come across as a “normal” family, but kids with ADHD are different, and making peace with the situation and accepting it can be very liberating. Parents want their child to stop being impulsive, hyperactive and inattentive, but realising that their brains are wired differently, letting go of how you think your child should be, and embracing the child that you have is very healing. Recognising and accepting their flaws will help you stop and see their rainbows on a rainy day. Every child is good at something, but it’s often hard to see this when you are hell-bent on trying to change them.

6. Try to make peace with your child’s bad days

So many parents feel that their ADHD child does things to upset them on purpose. They don’t listen, and they are hyperactive and defiant. However, learning to make peace with it and accepting what is will help so much. When they act out, often it’s because they are over-stimulated or feeling anxious. Kids with ADHD can have emotions that are so much more intense than other kids’, and they struggle with the simplest of changes. A change in routine, a different teacher, or even a different type of clothing or meal can flip them into a rage. Remembering this on bad days or during bad moments can help so much. Just go with it, accept it and be confident in yourself as a parent. Try not to feel embarrassed in front of other parents; everyone is going through something, it’s just that no one talks about it!

7. Use a positive type of discipline

At the end of the day, we are raising mini-humans, and just like in the animal kingdom, they need the leaders of the pack to keep them in line. However, like animals in the wild, if you try taming your spirited children too much, they will fight back! This can then mean that you can’t even get them to obey a single instruction, which is draining and hard for parents. Using a simple method like “pasta in the jar” is great because it’s visual and easy for both the child and the parent. You simply place some dried pasta in a jar, and each time the child doesn’t listen to your instructions, you take one piece of pasta out of the jar. As soon as you take pasta from the jar, immediately give them a way to earn that pasta back. This allows them to act in a positive way and helps them to self-regulate. If they have all the pasta in their jar by the end of the week, then they get a reward! Simple!

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8 One-on-one time parent time is crucial

Having one-on-one time with your child who has ADHD is often something that can fill you with dread, but having that special time with your little bottle of pop can often be the thing that helps their behaviour. Don’t overthink it; this special time could be as simple as doing crafts together, taking the dog for a walk, or visiting the park. Try not to use this time as a reward for them; instead consider it essential “mental health” time. Even if they’ve had a particularly “bad” week and you feel like you don’t want to give them this special time, try and remember: the children who need the most love are often the ones who ask for it in the most unloving ways.

9. Give them a safe space

ADHD kids will often have more thoughts before breakfast than most people have all day, and in time, this could be their greatest gift, but when they are young it can send them into sensory overload! While going to a friend’s house to play or meeting friends at a café or restaurant might seem like nothing to you, to them it can seem like the end of their world. Allowing yourself to see who they and accepting it will help you in these moments.

Be honest with family and friends that you may not always be able to attend dates, and don’t apologise for this. You have a different type of child who needs to be nurtured in a different way. When you see that your child is overwhelmed, encourage your child to go to his or her safe space. It could be their bedroom (this is why it’s great not to use this space as a punishment room). It could be a den that they have made, even under the table – but it will allow them to self-regulate once again. Trying to get them to conform will often end in disaster for the parents.

10. Choose Love

ADHD kids can be hard to love, but at the same time they are often very intuitive, and they know when people don’t like them. They will feel disapproval from their parents too, and the more they feel this, the more they will rebel! Being mindful of how you talk to them and how you speak about them (when they are in earshot) will affect their self-esteem so much. Low self-esteem in children causes them to be anxious, which can then supercharge their ADHD. Their impulsivity, hyperactivity and inattentiveness will then be on steroids, and it will become almost impossible to parent them. Showering them with love (even on bad days) won’t breed spoilt children with attachment problems. It will instead raise their self-esteem and give you a happier, more compliant little human.

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Instead of thinking about all the negative aspects of ADHD, we need to think about the positives. We need to imagine Mozart composing his symphonies or Dali and Picasso drawing their masterpieces. We need to think about Jim Carrey and Robin Williams making people laugh, Steven Spielberg and Walt Disney creating some of the most iconic movies of all time, and David Neeleman, the founder of JetBlue Airlines, making positive changes in the aviation industry. All these people not only had ADHD, but better still, they had someone who believed in them. Someone like that one man who could see not only the ripples in the water but the ships themselves. ADHD kids are hard to parent, but with a little compassion and understanding and a truckload of patience, they can become the most awesome humans! We could be holding the key to the success of future writers, musicians, artists, actors, athletes or entrepreneurs – let’s be the ones who help them achieve it!

Featured photo credit: Jason Rosewell via unsplash.com

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Susy Parker

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Published on May 7, 2021

20 Energizing Brain Breaks For Kids

20 Energizing Brain Breaks For Kids

From coaching martial arts to children as young as four years old, I very quickly came to the understanding that if I wanted to help kids progress their skills, I needed to find a way to help them focus more consistently in my class.

There are two key ways I found when it came to improving my students’ level of focus:

  1. Make what we’re doing more interesting. Nothing is off the table here—from having ninja clowns on the rampage in a lesson to including popular games with a martial arts theme, tapping into the student’s love of fun to help them focus.
  2. Introduce brain breaks.

Brain breaks are small mental breaks that help the kids stay more focused. Think of the brain as a fuel gauge that shows the information you can consciously hold in your mind at any given moment. When the kids are focused and working hard on their tasks, the meter is usually full. They can easily concentrate and pass experiences into their long-term memory.

But when the needle starts to drop, you may observe that your kids are feeling anxious or looking restless. New information, experiences, and knowledge are not getting processed from the staging area or working memory into the long-term memory.[1]

It’s here that brain breaks make the most difference, as they allow us to “top-up the tank” or reset the gauge so that we can continue to learn and focus and at a higher level.

If you’ve been home tutoring, you’ll appreciate that brain breaks can help kids in many ways. They can reduce stress and frustration. Think of those times when you’re helping your kids solve a difficult problem. It’s taxing for you both and when compounded with the energy loss after a day at school or watching TV. The stress effect can be compounded, and it’s here that brain breaks can be a lifesaver.[2]

The following is a selection of brain break ideas for kids. You’ll see that some are physical activities while others are more relaxing. It’s always great to test them out to see which ones connect the best with your children.

It’s okay to repeat the same brain breaks. Having a clear name and mission to a break can help keep your child excited, knowing that they’ll have the opportunity to take part in a future round of the activity.

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Active Brain Breaks

Here are some active brain breaks for kids that you can try out.

1. Swapsies

Have the participants stand behind a chair. Call out a character trait, like “everyone with brown eyes.” You then swap places with someone else who has the same characteristic. If you have nothing that matches, you stay put!

Examples: “Everyone with trainers on.” “Everyone who is left-handed.” “Everyone who is wearing yellow.”

2. Dance Party

Put five or six different types of songs on Spotify, including a classic like “baby shark or the hamster dance.” Dim the lights if possible and have the kids dance to the tunes. Then, change the tunes and change the dance style. It’s silly and fun.

3. Freeze Dance

Similar to Dance Party except that when the music stops, students have to stay perfectly still until the music restarts. You can make this even more fun by trying to make the students smile. If they smile, they are out and have to sit down.

4. Keep It Up

Students must keep a balloon from touching the floor. You can add multiple balloons. You can make it more competitive by having different balloons of two different colors and split people into teams. Whoever keeps the balloons up the longest or the team with the most balloons in the air with a timer of 60 seconds wins.

5. Simon Says

This brain break for kids is an old favorite. You can also mix it up with martial arts moves, Fortnite dances, superhero moves, etc.

6. Animal Movement

Move like different animals. It’s fun for younger children. We use Flamingo where you stand on one leg, crawl like a bear, stand like a meerkat, run like a cheetah, and walk like a penguin.

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7. Find It Fast

“Find It Fast” is a scavenger hunt variation. Call an item out in the room and kids have to stand by it. For example, find a clock, find something with a face, find something smelly, find some money, find a phone, etc.

8. The Frog

Physical Challenges can be excellent fun. We have one in the martial arts class called “The Frog” where you squat like a frog, then lean forward so your head and feet are off the floor. These are all old yoga poses, so have a look through a booklet or website for some safe ideas. Other examples are grabbing your nose with your left hand and touching your knee with your right elbow.

9. Pizza Delivery Time

Give the students paper plates and tell them to hold the plates above their head on a flat hand. They then run around the room and try to keep the plate in their hand. You can make it more challenging by having other students try to knock others’ plates off. There’s usually a 3-star jump penalty if your plate touches the floor.

10. Limbo

We use martial arts belts and the students take turns going underneath the belts. Fun music creates an awesome atmosphere here.

11. Human Knot

Split the group of people and have everyone link hands under and over. That’s making knots between everyone in the group. Have the other students try to untangle them and return everyone back into a circle.

12. Feather Balance

This brain break for kids works well with gentle music, and you can use a balloon or a straw if you don’t have a feather handy.

13. Stack them high

The students should have plastic cups and paper squares. The goal is to make a tower as high as possible, or it could be to make a triangle or even a pyramid.

Relaxing Brain Breaks

We talked about brain breaks for kids that are being used to energize the students. But they can also be used to calm and relax them. We’re more familiar with the term mindfulness, but it’s the same idea. These are brain breaks for kids that reduce stress and anxiety.

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14. Meditation

Meditation

is a popular way to reduce anxiety. There are lots of great examples already pre-recorded on YouTube that you can follow along with. Below is a useful classroom meditation example.

15. Kaleidoscope

Kaleidoscopes are fun ways to relax. They are mesmerizing and like a peaceful vortex that sucks you into them. Below is a great example of a visual online one you can use.

16. Reading/Listening to a Story

When I surveyed the members of our martial arts club about how their kids employ brain breaks at home, there was a clear winner among the families—listening to a story or reading a story. The feedback was that the process of daydreaming a little helps the kids to recharge. But it goes without saying that the story needs to be engaging.

17. Doodling

My personal favorite way to brain break as a kid was to doodle. Doodling gives your child a few minutes to draw anything they want. It can be calming for them, and it’s a lot more fun if you have different types of pens or crayons available to use. Add some soft music, and you have a simple way to take some time to relax.

18. Coloring Sheets

Coloring sheets are another way to relax the mind. There’s lots of great coloring in pads available, but here are some links to public resources shared on the internet that are great examples.

19. Deep Breathing

Deep breathing

is an epic way to help your child slow down. It is a quick way to relieve anxiety so that they feel more ready for the next task ahead.

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Try this: put your hands on your tummy, breathe in through the nose, and feel your belly expand like a balloon. Hold it here, then slowly breathe out through the mouth while feeling your stomach get smaller. Repeat this 10 times. Use the following counts: breath in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, and breath out for 4 seconds.

20. Going Outside

Go outside was the second most popular response from our parent’s survey about brain breaks for kids at home. Fresh air always feels nice. You can combine this with a treasure hunt, looking for different colored cars, types of birds, or even types of trees, if you’re familiar with these.

My personal favorite is using a mushroom spotting app on our phones and finding a mushroom or toadstool, then using the app to identify its name. This is surprisingly engaging for children. But a few safety rules about not touching them is important. It gives kids a change of scenery and helps revitalize the senses, providing a welcome break from their homework.

How Often Should You Introduce Brain Breaks?

The key to brain breaks is their timing. If you can introduce them before you notice that your kids are entering deep fatigue or their loss of focus has set in. You’ll find a great balance between breaks and effort.

I’ve observed from my martial arts coaching that younger students have a smaller amount of working memory than older kids. My formula is for five minutes of technical training, we provide five minutes of brain breaks for students under seven years old. Plus, we coach to 15 minutes of training to five minutes of brain breaks for children under 12 years.

Final Thoughts

Implementing calming brain breaks for kids is a really efficient way of introducing brain breaks. You have a quick way to allow your students to learn about regulating themselves. Balancing their mind and energy is a useful skill, and you can take this with you everywhere you go.

Our martial arts center revolutionized our approach to coaching by using brain breaks for kids. We found that although we were teaching less technical skills, there was now consistent progress from the students. Plus, everyone was less anxious, happier, and are having more fun. This is a win overall.

If you’ve been having challenges with your kids focusing at home, maybe try a mixture of the calming and active breaks to see which types work best for your kids.

Featured photo credit: Robert Collins via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] SimplyPsychology: Working Memory Model
[2] BrainFacts.org: Kids Need Brain Breaks — And So Do Adults

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