“The first thing your home needs if you have a hyperactive child is to be as free of clutter and chaos as possible,” said Dr. Sharon Saline, PsyD. Saline has a practice in Northampton, MA and has been a school consultant regarding children with hyperactivity disorders. “To help these children, you need to create a calm, consistent, clean space,” she said.
What are the specific challenges of a hyperactive child?
A child with a hyperactivity disorder generally takes a longer time to develop organizational skills, as well as the ability to focus and put activities and objects in a sequential order. Saline said that these skills are developed in our frontal lobes, are referred to as “executive function,” and are not fully developed in an average human until approximately age 25.
“They have a challenge with organizing both their internal and external space,” said Saline. The following are ways you can help your hyperactive child stay calmer at home.
Everything in its place…
Saline said that one of the most basic things a parent can do to help their hyperactive child is to set up labeled bins and boxes where specific items are placed. “For example, if you have a cubby for hats and gloves, you can say ‘put your hat and gloves in their box’, as opposed to ‘put your hat and gloves away,’” said Saline. Saline added that specified and labeled storage bins and boxes should be in a relatively easy place to access. “You don’t want them behind a stack of old newspapers, for instance,” she said.
Another example, especially for a younger child, is not to allow more than a certain number of toys to be placed outside their storage space. “The child doesn’t need to have seventy-five toys out. Pick a few and rotate them,” she said.
Saline said it is important to collaborate with your child. She told the story of one child who had difficulty keeping their clothes in drawers because “she couldn’t see them.” The solution worked out between parent and child was to have a child-height shelving unit put in the room (find a carpenter to build a custom shelf unit) where clothing could be neatly stacked – in sight.