Signs of hyperactivity can range from excessive fidgeting and squirming to a lack of focus and attention on an activity. A hyperactive child can talk too much, run around when it’s not appropriate, climb on furniture, and otherwise be in constant motion.
When children display hyperactive behaviors, it’s not unusual for someone to ask how much sugar they’ve consumed — even though that’s likely not the cause. Yes, scientists believe that sugar consumption can have a mild effect on some children, but it’s not typically the reason for hyperactive behavior.
To uncover the reason for your child’s actions, you’ll likely need to look outside the sugar bowl — and it can help to think about the settings where your child goes into overdrive. If it’s in situations outside of the normal routine, it may simply be a case of your child reacting to an unfamiliar setting or group of people or being overstimulated at a party or other get-together. If it happens more regularly and across a broad swath of situations, you may need to look more deeply.
VeryWellFamily.com advises you to monitor how much exercise your child is getting and how much sleep. Children tend to have plenty of energy and, when they don’t channel it well — through play or exercise — they can get restless and struggle to sit still and focus when appropriate.
Also, when a child gets overtired, they often get hyperactive, unlike adults who tend to slow down when tired. When a child doesn’t get enough sleep, their body produces more adrenaline and cortisol to help them have more energy to stay awake.
Stress can lead to hyperactivity, as well, such as stress when a new baby arrives in the house or the changes in lifestyle that have needed to be made because of social distancing during COVID. If COVID-related loneliness may be at the root of hyperactive behavior, help your child to set up video calls with friends, grandparents, and so forth. Hold family fun nights in your household and, during them, watch for opportunities to allow your child to express their feelings.
During COVID, some children are feeling a lack of control over their lives, just as many adults do. To help, let them pick what game you play during family game nights, what books to read at bedtime, and what movies to watch after dinner. If there are a couple of possibilities for dinner, let your child choose which one sounds best. Although these may individually be small decisions, collectively they can help your child to feel more in control of life, which can reduce the stress that’s triggering hyperactive behavior.
If none of these strategies seem to help, talk to your child’s doctor. Anxiety can be at the root of hyperactive behavior, as well as an overactive thyroid.
The pediatrician may diagnose your child with a condition called attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Although “the exact cause of ADHD is not clear,” it’s believed that genetic and environmental components can play a role, as well as issues with a child’s central nervous system when they occur at certain developmental times. If ADHD is diagnosed, then treatments can range from counseling and behavioral therapy to medications. They can often relieve ADHD symptoms, although it can take some experimentation to find the optimal mix for your child.
One recommendation to help children with ADHD can also help those who are hyperactive but don’t have the condition: mindfulness. This helps children to focus on the present moment, letting go of challenges of the past, along with anxieties about the future. Key components of mindfulness include deep breathing and meditation. To get started, here are meditation apps for kids.