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Eight tips from a Priory child psychiatrist

  • Dr Hayley van Zwanenberg, of Priory’s Oxford Wellbeing Centre, says getting children to engage in ‘mindful’ exercise and household tasks will help

  • Encouraging them to take part in ‘physical’ games such as Twister and in-door hunts will be beneficial

  • Provide them with some structure throughout the day, especially if you are home-schooling, but give your kids a chance to just explore and learn, she says

In these uncertain times, it can be difficult to avoid children getting cabin fever from being cooped inside – and especially so if they have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

ADHD is a behavioural disorder, resulting in those affected having excessive energy levels and difficulty concentrating. It can also affect a child’s control over their speech and actions, leading to impulsive behaviour. Many children with ADHD will find it particularly hard being constrained to their home.

It can be tempting for parents to allow their child plenty of screen time – an opportunity for mums and dads to grab some much needed rest from a child’s hyperactive, inattentive or impulsive behaviour.

But it’s really helpful if children can, instead, engage in activity which burns up energy, says Dr Hayley van Zwanenberg, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at Priory’s Oxford Wellbeing Centre.

“Many parents will be struggling right now, but it’s really beneficial to try to engage children with ADHD in activities which are constructive, energetic and sufficiently stimulating to hold their attention for some time,” she says.

Her eight pieces of advice are:

  1. “How can you get your child exercising?  This is really important. If a child with ADHD has exercised, he or she may be able to engage in a much calmer activity afterwards. Taking part in something like martial arts can instil mindfulness and discipline. It will help them build confidence, learn to focus, and develop enhanced co-ordination. There will be plenty of free lessons online. Or can you help create a high intensity training workout for your child, or play ball games with them and get them skipping? Or they could join in Joe Wicks’ PE classes on YouTube.

  2. Can they find things in the garden, or help you clear out cupboards and then use unwanted items to build something creative with?

  3. Encouraging your child to help with tasks around the house will pass the time and enable you to get something productive done. Can they help you with the washing, or cleaning the windows, or vacuuming?

  4. Playing an audio book while a young person is engaging in another activity, such as drawing or colouring, can be helpful.

  5. Organise a hunt in the house for objects or create riddles that take time to solve

  6. Twister is a good game for siblings when one has ADHD, as it involves a lot of movement

  7. Start a story and let them come up with the rest of it while also acting it out

  8. Have a toy wash - have your children gather up their plastic/metal toys, bikes and cars that could use a good washing. Fill up some buckets with soapy water and let them have fun washing the toys. Then take the hose and rinse everything off. Let everything dry in the sun.

 

Notes to editors

For interviews or inquiries, contact communications@priorygroup.com

 

About Priory Group

The Priory Group is the leading provider of behavioural care in the UK, caring for around 30,000 people a year for conditions including depression, anxiety, drugs and alcohol addiction, eating disorders and self-harming. The Group is organised into four divisions – healthcare, education and children’s services, adult care and the Middle East. The Priory Group is owned by NASDAQ-listed Acadia Healthcare, which is recognised as a global leader in behavioural health.

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