Attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common developmental disorders experienced in children. But medication isn’t the only (or best) option and unfortunately, there are limited options when it comes to safe and effective drug treatment. Even so, many parents don’t like the idea of putting their young child on medications that may come with nasty side effects (often worse than the symptoms themselves).
However, there are other more natural treatment options, and meditation is one of the best. It also happens to be completely free of any negative side-effects, free of charge, and useful in most situations and remarkably effective when taught correctly and properly implemented.
Now, let me take a stab at what your mind is telling you now: “How the hell am I supposed to get my hyperactive and impulsive kid to sit still long enough to meditate? If I they were capable of sitting still, I wouldn’t be searching the internet for help with ADHD!” Or maybe it’s telling you: “I can’t even freaking meditate, how the heck is my overactive 9 year old going to be able to?”
Fair enough. But allow me to explain.
Your Child’s Brain on ADHD
We all have thoughts and impulses that may not be that rational or kind. Maybe you feel like ramming your car into the car that just cut you off, for example. Maybe you want to wait until they get out of their car so you can politely tell them to go do something to themself. ????
Luckily, most of us have a functioning pre-frontal cortex that helps prevent us from doing dangerous or unlawful impulsive behavior.
Your child’s pre-frontal cortex is significantly impaired, and so they can’t pump the brakes on these impulses. An impulse makes itself known and before they even know what’s going on, they’re acting on it. And you’re reacting.
How Meditation for kids with adhd empowers them
Children with ADHD need more than a medication that will “calm them down.” They need to learn how to become aware of their own thoughts. By recognizing that we are not our thoughts, but rather simply having thoughts, you child will become empowered to self-regulate and make better choices.
Studies are now showing that mindful meditation can help children with ADHD:
- Reduce their feelings of stress and anxiety
- Reduce impulsive behavior
- Improve concentration
- Reduce hyperactivity
- Improve self-esteem
Helping Your Child Get Started
The best way to get your little one interested in meditation is to practice it yourself. Do some research and perhaps take a few classes yourself so you fully understand what is involved.
Ideally, create a space in your home that is just for meditation. Somewhere where there will be no interruptions and encourage a sense of calm is the best.
Be sure to start your child out nice and slow. Experts suggests one minute of meditation for every year of your child’s age. All kids are different so you may need to adjust for your kid. Your child may be 10, for example, but only be able to start off doing 5 minutes. That’s fine, don’t push it – use the age suggestion as a starting point. In fact, starting off with more than 5 minutes at any age is probably not advisable. Most adults can’t start with more than 5 minutes.
Drop any and all expectations you may have at the beginning. Most adults with fully-functioning pre-frontal cortexes have a very hard time with meditation at first, so chances are your child will as well. Don’t become frustrated and bark at your kid to “stop fidgeting.” This will only discourage both of you.
If they need some encouragement to get started, feel free to use positive rewards. Allow them to choose what movie the family will watch or which board game you will play on the weekend.
Will getting your ADHD child to meditate be easy? Doubtful. You’d have an easier time giving your cat a bath. However, it’s critical that you keep at it. Why? Because if you do, they will eventually start to pick up on it and you will see some amazing changes in your child.
Parenting is hard. However, parenting a child with ADHD is something else entirely. If you’re struggling to manage all the responsibilities of adulthood as well as parent a child with ADHD, find an awesome therapist you like and trust to help you create strategies that work.
James Killian, LPC is the Principal Therapist & Owner of Arcadian Counseling in Greater New Haven, CT where they specialize in helping over-thinkers, high achievers, and perfectionists reduce stress, increase fulfillment and enhance performance so they can move From Surviving To Thriving.