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Children Who are Active and Distractible: What to do

Some children have problems sitting still, concentrating and playing alone. There are both physiological and emotional reasons for this. It is important to remember that MANY young children behave like this, and therefore it is important to avoid labelling a child as "hyperactive" unless he has been diagnosed by a qualified physician or psychologist. Often fidgety, exuberant children calm down a bit, and learn how to harness their energy as they grow older.

Here are some suggestions for living with a very active young child:

  • Have some play time with your child two or three times a week. During these times, try to follow her lead, and join in only when she asks you to. This will help your child concentrate, and will support your relationship with her.

  • Encourage your child to do lots of physical activities. If the weather is good, go outside together and do gross motor activities, such as running or jumping, that very active children usually love to do. Enrol your child in organized sports, such as gymnastics or swimming. Sometimes children with concentration problems have problems with balance, and these activities can help them.

  • Help your child to block out distractions. In other words, don't ask him to set the table while the television is on and the dog is running around. Keep the environment as calm and quiet as possible.

  • Provide consistent daily routines and structure. For children who have difficulty concentrating, changes in routines can make them anxious and increase their activity.

  • Limit the amount of television, as it tends to increase these children's activity level, and also does not encourage them to do activities such as pretend play and reading - activities that help with school subjects later.

  • Identify the best and worst times of the day for your child. Then, schedule the most difficult tasks and the ones needing the most concentration during the better times. Also consider the best and worst times of the day for you.

  • Talk slowly and clearly when giving instructions. Check that your child understands what you are saying.

  • Be consistent in your expectations from your child. If your child gets mixed messages, he will become confused.

  • Try calming activities, such as playing in a warm bath or reading a quiet story. These may really help a child get ready for the end of the day and getting into bed.

  • Once a day, compliment your child. There is real danger that these children hear only negative messages about themselves, which can contribute to the development of low self-esteem.

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