There can be a lot of confusion surrounding the idea of hyperactive children and whether your bouncing grinning child is hyperactive or simply energetic.
Bringing up energetic children can be taxing on parents. It can be exhausting to cope with the limitless energy of a four-year old when you have had a long day at work and just want some time to breathe. However there is a difference between being hyperactive and being simply energetic and it has nothing to do with the parent’s energy levels.
Maturity and energy
The energy levels of children, particularly those in the younger years, can vary widely and it’s difficult to determine a norm. However, it’s natural for young children to have boundless energy, in the form of physical or mental energy, and want to run and jump and play and ask questions incessantly.
The maturity of your child will also play a large part in your child’s energy levels. Younger children are discovering their world around them and are curious and interested. One of their best methods of learning about their world around them is through exploration, and physical exertions teach them about the spaces around them as well as their body’s abilities. It’s a critical time for learning what their limitations are, and discovering their capabilities.
Your child’s maturity will also have a large effect on their mental energy. Younger children are fascinated by new things and want to know more. Their minds are open to discovery and a great way to get the answers is through questions. Parents of a four-year old can expect to be treated as an encyclopaedia with constant questions being fired at them.
What is hyperactivity?
Hyperactivity is not the same as being an energetic child. Hyperactivity is a term that refers to restless and distractive behaviour. For the most part, all children can be distracted and restless at times and are not always cooperative and sociable. However, hyperactivity is often accompanied by learning and behavioural symptoms in addition to the restlessness. They may display mood swings, be easily distracted and suffer from inattention or disorganisation.
It’s important not to mistake the age-appropriate high energy levels of your child as a disorder. Children are energetic and sometimes over energetic for any number of reasons. Simple things like excitement and nervousness can increase the child’s adrenalin levels causing them to be more energetic and distracted, as can certain foods and levels of carbohydrates and sugars. Many artificial flavourings and colorants have been attributed to causing a hyper state in perfectly normal children.
How to manage your child’s energy levels
Having a child bouncing off the walls at bedtime, during homework time or at the dinner table is a nightmare for any parent. But there are some methods you can use to manage your child’s energy levels that will make it easier for both you and your child.
Exercise is essential for children to help their motor skill, social and physical development. However exercise can also be a great way for your child to burn off some of the energy they have. Try encouraging your child to have a game outside before homework and dinner time, to allow them to expend excess energy before sitting down to focus on school work or eat a meal with the family.
What your child eats is as important as when the food is eaten. Artificial flavours and colours can cause a hyper state in the average adult, as can caffeine, and should be avoided as much as possible throughout the day. As an adult you can feel the effects of these ingredients with the energy surge after eating or drinking the product and the fatigue that follows.
Eating foods that cause energy levels to spike before bedtime or times when you want your child to sit quietly will make it nearly impossible for your child to do so. Try giving foods that provide the energy and nutrition without the hyperactive effect. Processed foods should be avoided because of the preservatives and additives, while natural foods provide nutrition along with small amounts of energy which the child’s body can process.
As parents, we are always concerned with our children’s health and many parents are quick to respond to their naturally high-energy levels with a trip to the doctor. Before taking drastic action, think back to what you were like at that age and consider if it’s age-appropriate behaviour that your child is displaying. Remember, your long day at work and stresses affect your energy levels, but not your child’s and although you may be exhausted, they are just being normal children.