Parenting a restless and impulsive child can be challenging, with parents often becoming concerned that their child has signs of ADHD.
An assessment can lead to a diagnosis that your child has some sort of disorder. However, an holistic view sees ADHD simply as a collection of behaviours. Looking beneath these behaviours , we often find areas of stress or tension in their life.
Overwhelming experiences during infancy and early childhood can interrupt your child’s early development. This then affects later stages of development, and their ability to take in and process sensory information.
Helping you to Help your Child.
I offer a relationship-based approach to changing behaviours, supporting parents to build closer connections, based on understanding the reasons behind the behaviours. The aim is lifelong change, helping your child to realise their potential and find their place in the world.
Typical ADHD-type Behaviours
Some of the behaviours you might be seeing that are typical signs of ADHD may include:
- tuning out
- trouble following instructions
- poor focus and attention
- easily distracted
- poor coordination, especially fine motor control
- poor spatial awareness
- interrupting others when speaking
- poorly controlled emotional reactions
- trouble sitting still
- fidgeting, tapping toes or fingers
- talking excessively
Then there are times when your impulsive child can seem totally focussed, fully absorbed in something, such as watching television, or playing video games. Blocking out all external sensations, they often startle easily, and can react in anger and frustration when interrupted.
Generally, children with signs of ADHD are struggling to process sensory impressions. They become easily overwhelmed in a busy environment. You child might seem excessively “touchy”, or highly anxious, with a nervous system constantly in a high state of alert.
Unable to self-regulate their emotions, they may react impulsively, often to seemingly small stimuli. Self esteem can be damaged as your child struggles to fit into a world full of confusion.
In the Classroom
Your child with signs of ADHD may struggle to concentrate and maintain focus in a busy classroom. They may be in trouble for being disruptive, talking or not paying attention.
Sometimes described as “attention seeking”, this child can also be highly sensitive, easily becoming stressed. Sometimes just a tone of voice, or the general noise levels in the room, will cause them to “act out”.
One option is to diagnose a child with signs of ADHD as having a disorder. Treatment may involve medication, or strategies to change the behaviour.
An alternative, more holistic approach is to look at the “why” behind the behaviour, and address the cause.
Behaviour as an Automatic Survival Response
When your child is feeling threatened or overwhelmed, their automatic survival instinct kicks in. The behaviour you are seeing is not planned. It is an intelligent response by a stressed nervous system. Your child is letting you know that he/she is feeling unsafe. Often, an environment that may seem safe to adults can feel very threatening to some children.
An authority figure in the child’s life may be triggered to react in anger and frustration. This may inadvertently create further overwhelm for the child’s already stressed nervous system, increasing their frustration, anger, restlessness and anxiety.
Not a Planned Behaviour
At this point, your child’s “thinking brain” has gone completely offline. What you are seeing is a reaction from the lower, or reactive, part of the brain. As their anxiety increases, learning of any kind is completely out of the question. There is nothing to be gained from trying to reason with a child having a meltdown.
The child is not choosing to be annoying. We can view the ADHD behaviours as bringing us a message, letting us know that your child is struggling to cope. One common strategy is an attempt to change the behaviour by using rewards, punishments (consequences) and time-outs.
The aim in this case is to “teach” compliance. This is often ineffective because the child often has no idea what they have done wrong. Remember, the behaviour was an automatic response by their nervous system to feeling threatened or unsafe.
An Holistic Approach
However, there is another way of addressing your child’s challenging behaviours.
Treatment does not always need to involve medication or strategies of control and behaviour modification. We can understand the behaviours better by stepping into your child’s world.
An alternative approach is to address the underlying causes of the behaviour. We can view the behaviour as the “tip of an iceberg”. Underneath, we usually find a highly sensitive and reactive nervous system.
Regulating Emotions through Connection
Young children learn to regulate their emotions through being consistently soothed by a connected caregiver. When a child feels safe with an emotionally-regulated adult, they will naturally learn to regulate their own emotions. As a result, the behaviour is no longer necessary, and will gradually diminish.
Conversely, when you are stressed, they will easily pick up your tension, and act accordingly.
When emotional balance has been restored, your child is ready to learn.
Addressing Underlying Issues
Research shows strong links between stress in early childhood, developmental delay, learning difficulties and challenging behaviours. Looking beneath the signs of ADHD, I usually find immaturities in early stages of development, including:
- balance and coordination
- listening or auditory processing
- body and spatial awareness
- sense of touch
- retained primitive reflexes
- visual processing and visual motor skills
My experience is that when these underlying issues have been addressed:
- Children become much calmer.
- Positive attributes such as empathy and self-regulation develop naturally
- Learning improves
- Ability to focus and pay attention becomes much easier
- Balance and coordination improves
- Friendships and social skills develop
Living with a restless, impulsive child can be challenging. Parents deserve support too. Addressing the stresses and tensions in your own life can make it much easier to be present with your child in their distress. Your children will be able to pick up and mimic your sense of calm.
Circle of Security Parenting
Many parents have benefitted from the internationally recognised Circle of Security Parenting program. This is an 8 week relationship-based early intervention parenting program. It is designed to help build connection and understanding, and can be offered either individually, or in small groups.
I am a registered Circle of Security Parenting facilitator and offer this program for couples and individuals. It is available both online via zoom, or face-to-face.
The First Step
The first step is to make an appointment for an initial parent consultation. This is a time set aside just for you, a safe place to talk about whatever is worrying you. We can work together to set some achievable goals and create the family life you want.
My aim is to help you raise happy, healthy children, able to achieve to their potential and find their place in the world.
Learning to Read
A PACFA accredited Holistic Counsellor and Psychotherapist, Rosalind is also a Registered NDIS Provider, Circle of Security Facilitator and approved Victims Services Counsellor.
Sessions are available in person at Moruya South Head, and online via zoom.