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Natural Coping Approaches for Children with ADHD

by Violet-Ann Remba(more info)

listed in mind matters, originally published in issue 126 - August 2006

Many of today's children are being labelled as having either Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). These children display traits such as sensitivity, hyperactivity, boredom, short attention span, resistance to authority and frustration. Naturally, parents are worried and would like to know how to raise their children in a loving and responsible way.

My daughter is 21/2 years-old. I went into a shop with her the other day where they had little chairs for sale. I had been looking for these chairs since I had bought her a little table a few months before. I told her to sit in it so I could see if it was the correct size for her, and on seeing that it was, I told the owner to keep it for me as I didn't have money with me. I asked my daughter to get down so we could go home, but she refused. Point blank. She told me that she was sitting in her chair. Everyone in the shop laughed, and the owner jokingly said, "Well you have to take it with you now!" I told him – and my daughter – that we would definitely be back to purchase it the following day, but she had other ideas. First, she took off her shoes, then she dug her feet in, and when I tried to lift her myself she screamed and threw a super tantrum that stunned us all. This went on for a few minutes until the owner who knew me, thankfully, told me that we could take the chair home and pay for it later. All the way home she had her hand on the chair to 'help me carry it', and probably to make sure I didn't leave it somewhere.

I believe many parents are going through this kind of thing everyday: tantrums at the supermarket, orders to get what the child wants right then, refusal to bath or to go to bed, etc. I am fortunate, because I did a lot of research when I was pregnant and so am well-prepared for these situations. But even I get overwhelmed and shocked once in a while at the will power, the energy and the intelligence my daughter shows.

Today's Childhood Scenario

The unfortunate trend with most parents is to go to the doctor, complain about the hyperactivity and leave with a prescription for Ritalin, often without even testing for ADD. This drug, dubbed a wonder drug by some, is anything but. Decreasing blood flow to the brain, it routinely causes other gross malfunctions in the development of the brain. While it reduces the symptoms in the short term, it does nothing to help a child manage the real problems of life. With this evidence in hand, we look for alternative methods, and therapies to help our children and ourselves cope. Let no one tell you that your child is sick. She has a condition that is easily manageable with the right attitude.

Childhood should be a time of exploring the world in wonderment, and enjoying the security of a loving home and family. Few children today actually experience this, as they seem to be riddled with various problems: obesity, depression, shyness, frustration, anger and confusion. I remember going to a nightclub a couple of years ago and seeing eight year-old boys drinking beer and lighting up cigarettes. Where were the parents? Most were in a separate part of the club getting equally drunk! At a time when those boys should have been firmly tucked in bed for the night, they were busy ordering beers. I am still horrified at that memory which apparently was not an isolated incident. What future are we setting up for our children if we let them run wild so early in their lives?

In Tomorrow's God, Neale Donald Walsch talks about how children today are being ignored: "Children are being left to their own devices, relegated to their own little worlds, more and more and more of the time, as both parents work and involve themselves in other things. Children spend hours in front of screens – TV screens, computer screens, video-game screens, movie screens. They are being, quite literally, screened out from Life Itself.'

Love and Affection

In many cases, because parents are so busy, and subsequently so tired, they just leave the children alone to do as they please. What they need most is love, affection and attention, starting when they are in the womb, when you can rub and talk to them often. When they are born, touch, hold and massage them often, talk to them and explain things even if they don't understand. It has been proven that most ADD/ADHD children are tactile learners, so get your child something he can hold all the time while they learn, such as rubber ball, a rattle or even a teddy bear. Parents could set aside time at least once a week to give the child a full massage after their evening bath. At bedtime, stroke their hair or hold their hands as you read to them or tell them a story. Talk about the pleasant things that happened in their day, say a prayer together, and remember to tell them that you love them.

I hug and kiss my daughter a lot everyday, and she rewards me by doing the same to me. We have a game we play called 'Kiss here'. When she kisses me I point to all the places on my face that I want her to kiss, like my chin, both cheeks, my forehead, my nose. As I do so I say, "kiss here". She responds wonderfully and I can tell she feels happy because she knows it is giving me joy. These children love seeing others happy, especially if they can contribute. When she's done it is my turn to kiss here and there, as she points to her chin and her nose, etc., and I comply. We have loads of fun and we play this game at least every second day. It is important to keep this connection, and to allow your child to feel free to be affectionate with you.

Role of Nutrition and Diet

The area of nutrition is also very important. With allergies on the increase, it is important to find out which foods do not agree with your child. Use trial and error by testing reactions to different foods, or get a medical examination. Look to the usual suspects: eggs, nuts, sugar, dairy products and wheat. Symptoms of reactions include asthma attacks, difficulty breathing, blocked nose, runny nose, eczema, rashes, hyperactivity and moodiness. Remove the offensive foods from the child's diet, gradually replacing them with healthier alternatives, such as honey, fruit juices, goat's milk, soya products, organic fruits and vegetables. Variety attracts children, so experiment with different recipes using foods that have bright colours, and even cutting fruits and vegetables into interesting shapes. Be as creative as possible, especially if your child is a fussy eater, and ask her to help you get meals ready or to set the table. Eat together, sitting down as much as possible to set an example, as many of these children have difficulty staying in one place for long periods of time.

Hand in hand with a change in diet are supplements. There are many good combinations of vitamin and mineral supplements for children on the market. Do your research and consult a trusted doctor before you make a choice. Patrick Holford, in his New Optimum Nutrition Bible, points to another often overlooked area: "Many children with ADHD have known symptoms of essential fatty acid (EFA) deficiency such as excess thirst, dry skin, eczema and asthma. As long as your child is eating oily fish three times a week and a daily portion of seeds, it is enough to help their brains develop and boost their IQ." If not, he recommends a supplement with an EFA formula that contains both GLA (Omega-6) and DHA and EPA (Omega-3), the most important Omega-3 fats for development.

Home Environment

Remember that children learn what they live, and so take a look at your home environment. Offer examples of structure and order. Mealtimes, bedtimes and work times must be the same as much as possible every day. These children are already spontaneous, erratic and changeable. It is up to you to show them that it is important to keep some areas in their lives orderly if they are to function successfully in the world. Homework must be done before playtime, and if you help them and show an interest in their development, you will find they can be quite responsible. What they need most from you is guidance on how to make sense of the outside world. For example, when you go to the supermarket or the movies explain to them, as you stand in the queue, that everyone ahead of you is there because they got there first. Teach them to wait their turn because their time will come. If you show impatience they will just learn that it is okay to disregard others if they feel like doing so, and one of the first people they will disregard is you.

Work, School and Play

Very often these children have real talent and ability in computers, music, sport and mathematics, but this can often be overlooked by the people around them.

Mrs Milton and her husband are devastated after being told by psychologists that their son, four year-old Jeff, cannot attend normal school. The psychologists say that Jeff has ADHD, does not concentrate sufficiently and should, therefore, go to a special school. Though he is unable to clearly articulate his words, he is not autistic and is a very intelligent young boy. As his mother explains, Jeff can actually load software onto a computer, among other things.

"I work from home as a Consultant and an organization asked to borrow one of my projectors for a workshop. An employer of theirs came to pick it up from the house and I took it out to show him how to work it. While I was closing the curtains Jeff took all the pieces of the projector and put them together, including the electricity cables. When done setting up he switched it on and it worked perfectly. How can they tell me that my son is not good enough for school?"

Now that they are eating well, getting adequate amounts of rest, being loved and offered safety, it is time to see our children as children. Play with your child, giving him enough outlets for his extra physical energy. Building structures with play dough and blocks, playing hide-and-seek, singing rhymes, dressing up in let's-pretend kits, like nurses and doctors uniforms, and putting together jigsaw puzzles, will all be very popular. You can incorporate learning in your games; teaching them how to count as you stack blocks, the different colours as you paint, letters as you read to them and sounds as you sing.

Get outside with them and teach them about trees, plants and flowers on your walks; about the sun and rain and, if you have a garden, give them tasks to help you with, such as pulling out weeds (under supervision of course), watering pots and sweeping little patches of ground. By the time they are done they will be quieter, and can play in the tub and get ready for supper with very little problem.

Love is the Answer

Someone once said to me that if a child gets all the love he needs from his home and family then he won't need to go and look for it outside. That was very wise because, considering the world today, that search can be painful and destructive. All children need security and to feel safe and loved, more so the child with ADD. When this is in place, there is no sweeter child anywhere.

It is not always easy, but your child can be a thorn in your flesh or she can be the joy of you life. It really is up to you. If you do your part they will respond to your efforts, and will reward you in turn by being very gentle and caring. As my daughter drifts off to sleep she often holds me tight and mumbles, "Good night mummy; Love you mummy". I know that all the work I put in is worth it, because as she grows up love is what she will have to take out into the world, and love is what the world will offer right back to her.

References

1. Walsch ND. Tomorrow's God. Hodder and Stoughton. ISBN 0 34083023 9. 2004.
2. Carroll L and Tober J. The Indigo Children. Hay House. ISBN 1-56170-608-6. 1999.
3. Holford P. The New Optimum Nutritional Bible. Piatkus Books. ISBN 0749925523. 2004.

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About Violet-Ann Remba

Violet-Ann Remba lives in Harare, Zimbabwe and can be reached on Mob: 263 23 833 034; vremba@yahoo.com

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