When it’s Time to Wind Down: How to Help Kids Relax and Settle In
Virtually every parent and teacher understands what it means when their kids are “bouncing off the walls.” The rough-housing, screeches of laughter, silliness and fidgeting can drive you to the brink.
It’s all part of being a kid, but what about those times when you need to get kids to settle down to eat, learn, do homework, sit in church or go to bed?
“It’s natural for all kids to get wound up – most definitely when you’re talking about boys from age 6 to 10,” said Jesse Barondeau, MD, Avera Medical Group Pediatrician in Mitchell, S.D.
What is Acting Out Exactly?
How can you know if your child is displaying normal childhood behavior, or if their hyperactivity could signal a problem like ADHD? “One way to tell is to compare them to their peers. For example, when you look at a tee-ball team or scout pack, you might notice that one or two are more difficult to handle than the others. Teachers might call out the behavior, and you can also talk to your doctor about your concerns,” Barondeau said.
Some of the basics of life, like food and sleep, make a difference.
Is your child eating a lot of sugar and fried foods? Or getting caffeine from soda or energy drinks? Help your child include more fruits and vegetables, lean protein and complex carbohydrates, like whole grains and cereals, and you might see a little less hyper behavior.
You might think that inadequate sleep will make children drowsy and lethargic, but it can also make them hyper. Help your child get a better night’s sleep by limiting use of electronics in the evening, not allowing a TV in the bedroom, and setting a consistent bedtime so that the child can get the recommended eight to 11 hours of sleep.
Letting Off Steam
Healthy, active children need opportunities to let off steam, Barondeau said. So go to the park as a family and play, or find a good place for indoor active play during the colder months. When parents participate and play along, you’ll get more exercise and might sleep better at night yourself, he added.
“Sometimes, this is easier said than done, when you as a parent have things you need to do as well,” Barondeau said.
A little planning can go a long way, and these tips from Barondeau and healthcentral.com might help:
- Serve a good breakfast – Start your child off with foods that are high in protein and whole grains, and low in sugar. Hunger and blood sugar peaks and valleys can make a child more hyperactive. An egg and toast is a better choice than a toaster pastry.
- Teach relaxation techniques – If adults can benefit from these, so can children. Deep breathing exercises, mid-body exercise, tai chi or meditation can help a child learn to slow down their thoughts and their bodies.
- Take a walk – When your child is younger, take her by the hand and make a daily walk around the block part of your routine. If your older child is having trouble settling down to do homework, have him take a short walk or go for a spin on his bike first.
- Create a boredom box – Kids might get more hyper when they are bored. Assemble a box of activities such as dress-up clothes, read-aloud books, art supplies, building blocks, models, or whatever activity tends to hold your child’s interest.
- Use music – Soothing music, such as classical music, can help some children calm down. Experiment with different types of music to find out what works. Play soft music in the background for times like homework time, dinner time or before bedtime.
- Provide fidget alternatives – For children who get restless when they must sit still (in church, for example), bring some activities they can do quietly without disturbing others, such as a coloring book, find-a-word puzzle books, or even a stress ball or other object to manipulate.
- Stay calm yourself – If you get upset, frustrated or angry, children might react by raising their level of emotion and activity as well. Take a few deep breaths or take a short break. Staying calm and reacting with a neutral voice will help your child remain calm.