Distractibility, forgetfulness, and procrastination are all common traits of inattentive ADHD in kids. What might look like daydreaming or laziness to parents and teachers could actually be a sign of an attention disorder that requires, well, attention.
While new research continues to emerge about how and why ADHD manifests, neuroimaging has proven there are key differences in the brains of children and teens with ADHD, especially when it comes to the sections that control executive function skills. These skills facilitate the behaviors required to plan and achieve goals and include paying attention, strategizing, and managing one’s time. Many parents turn to medication to ease ADHD symptoms and improve concentration and focus, but there are additional ways to offer support, whether your child is taking medication or not. Try these 12 easy ways to help increase your child or teen’s focus and concentration so they can thrive at school and at home. When used in combination with healthy lifestyle habits like eating well, getting adequate sleep, controlling screen time, and practicing mindfulness, your child will have a long-term plan for success.
True or False: Spotting ADHD in Children & Teens is Impossible Without a Professional
Though you will need to see a healthcare professional if you’re looking for an official diagnosis or a prescription medication, there are many symptoms associated with ADHD that you can spot at home and many ways to help your child without prescription medication. But before we dive into the most common ADHD symptoms in school-aged children and teens, it’s important to note that many youngsters have trouble concentrating from time to time and that being distracted or forgetful on occasion does not necessarily mean your child has ADHD. However, if you notice your child is having prolonged difficulty and consistently encountering academic and social difficulties, then you may need to rule out an attention disorder.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms of inattentive ADHD are often missed by parents, teachers, and medical professionals, so that kids with ADHD don’t get the support they need. This commonly leads to frustration at school, apathy, and shame that can have devastating effects on their self-esteem. If your child or teen shows a number of the following ADHD symptoms and they appear at home and at school, it may be time to seek support.
Common ADHD symptoms in school-aged children and teens:
- Lack of focus, boredom
- Excitability or hyperactivity
- Excessive talking
- Excessive movement
- Restlessness and inability to relax
- Trouble waiting their turn
- Trouble following instructions
- Frequent mistakes school
- Withdrawal from people or activities
- Fear of rejection
If your child is having trouble concentrating and paying attention, try the following tactics to help strengthen their focus:
1. Encourage Breaks
When a child or teen with ADHD has to sit for prolonged periods of time, it can feel like torture. Try to think of the executive function system as a battery. Because your child has to put in so much effort and energy to focus, their battery runs out quickly and requires frequent recharges. Instead of waiting until your child is extremely frustrated or stressed out from trying to focus, encourage breaks so they can get up and have a stretch, take a walk, have a snack, or do anything else that recharges their battery.
For younger children: Clinical psychologist and ADHD specialist Dr. Russell Barkley has advised parents and teachers to try the “10-3” Rule, in which difficult work should be limited to 10 minutes followed by a three-minute exercise break, which may be more suitable for younger kids.
For teens: Older kids would probably benefit more from the Pomodoro Technique in which they work continuously for 25 minutes and then take a five-minute break.
2. Stick to a Routine
Kids with ADHD need routines to manage their day efficiently. When they know what’s coming next, they have time to prepare for transitions and there’s no stress with having to adjust to anything unexpected. Start mornings with a relaxing routine that sets a calm tone for the day, which also means encouraging your child to wake up at the same time every morning. Also try to ensure that homework happens at the same time in the same place every day. Just like mornings, aim to have a relaxing bedtime routine with a set bedtime and no screens before bed. Studies show that families that implement routines report significantly fewer externalizing behaviors of ADHD, which means less outbursts and less impulsive behavior.
For younger children: Younger kids may need more support in sticking to routines. This might mean helping them get up and get ready in the morning and ensuring they get to bed on time. Simple chores like setting the dinner table or unpacking the dishwasher can also help them become more responsible.
For teens: Teens may not need as much guidance with simple routines like getting ready in the morning, but you may help them establish a wind-down routine at home so they get the rest they need. Chores can also be a little more sophisticated, such as taking charge of their own laundry or even helping to prepare dinner one night a week or more.
3. Practice Deep Breathing
Whether your child or teen is being distracted by the thoughts in their mind or the sounds in the room, there’s one reliable constant you can always bring their attention back to: their breath. Some studies show that mindfulness practices like deep breathing exercises can help balance the autonomic nervous system by delivering more oxygen to the brain. This allows people with ADHD to become more focused and relaxed. Breathing exercises are also useful if your child struggles with anxiety in addition to ADHD.
For younger children: If you say the words “mindful breathing” to your eight or nine-year-old, you’re likely to get a puzzled look in return. But what about “tongue tube” (in which you curl your tongue into a straw or tube and suck in cool air) or “lion’s breath” (in which you stick out your tongue and exhale forcefully)? Finding fun names for simple breathing techniques is a great motivator for younger kids.
For teens: While younger children might want you to practice breathing exercises with them, it’s likely your teen will want some independence in honing their mindfulness skills. Equipping them with a mindfulness app can help them practice a variety of techniques without being completely on their own.
4. Give Them an Outlet for Physical Expression
A child with ADHD can often have so much trapped energy, they’ll fidget, squirm, act impulsively, and perhaps get angry if told to sit still. Finding appropriate outlets for their physical expression is a way to channel all of this trapped energy into something productive. This might mean joining a sports team, learning to dance, or pursuing another extracurricular activity they may enjoy. If your child finds something they’re passionate about, they may even experience hyperfocus, a phenomenon which allows them to spend a long time on a task without disruption.
For younger children: Younger children may still be figuring out what interests them, leading them to dabble until they find something they love. Permit them to explore a variety of physical activities, but make sure they give them a real shot instead of abandoning something when it presents a challenge.
For teens: Some teens may already be aware of their unique strengths, in which you can be their cheerleader, showing up for competitions or driving them to practice. If your teen still hasn’t found something they love, It’s great to brainstorm potential activities with them, but resist the urge to push them into situations they’re not ready for. Instead, applaud your teen’s bravery when they do decide (on their own) to try something outside of their comfort zone.
5. Give Them an Outlet for Emotional Expression
Kids with ADHD tend to be more sensitive and have issues with emotional regulation, leading them to feel ashamed if they cry too easily or have an outburst. Finding appropriate outlets for their emotional expression is a way to channel erratic emotions into an enjoyable activity. This might include picking up a paintbrush, learning to play an instrument, or pursuing another extracurricular activity that interests them.
For younger children: Younger children may have trouble identifying their emotions. In addition to giving them outlets for emotional expression, be sure to help them expand their vocabulary so they are able to describe their various emotions.
For teens: Teens may know a lot of words to describe their emotions but they are still developing their coping mechanisms when difficult emotions spring up. While your teen may be resistant to your advice when it comes to managing their emotions, they can still learn if you model emotional regulation for them.
6. Put Limits on Screen Time
Research shows that excessive screen time can make children exhibit symptoms of ADHD while exacerbating anxiety and restlessness. You don’t have to banish devices entirely, but putting some limits on screen time can have a profound effect on your child’s concentration.
For younger children: Try seeking some non-screen alternatives to keep your child engaged and entertained. This might include checking out library books, swapping movie night for game night, or making crafts together.
For teens: From social media to gaming, there are many reasons why your teen may be glued to their screen. To help them cut back, create screen-free zones in the home (like the dinner table) and have a designated place outside of the bedroom to put all electronic devices when they’re not in use.
7. Never Skip Breakfast
Everybody knows that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But why? Studies show that when people eat breakfast, things like concentration, memory, and energy all improve. Just be sure the breakfast is a nutritious one and not overloaded with sugar.1
For younger children: Swapping out their favorite sugary cereal for something healthy doesn’t have to be boring. Slather peanut butter on whole grain bread, swirl colorful chopped fruit into yogurt, or make soft boiled eggs to dip with toast.
For teens: Teens are always on the go, so it’s helpful to have some healthy ready-made breakfast foods on hand. Always be sure you’re stocked with hard boiled eggs, instant oatmeal, cut up fruits and veggies, and yogurt so there’s no excuse to skip the meal that will get them through their busy day.
8. Boost Vitamin B-6 Intake
Some studies have suggested that taking certain B vitamins, such as B-6, may be beneficial for the treatment of ADHD symptoms.2 Add vitamin B-6 into your child’s regimen by using supplements or incorporating it into their diet.
For younger children: There are a variety of gummy supplements for kids, but the best way to get vitamins is through food. Some kid-friendly sources of B-6 include milk, eggs, tuna, carrots, green peas, bananas, and avocado.
For teens: Teens may not be as fussy about taking vitamins, but some food sources they may like besides the ones listed above include salmon, spinach, chickpeas, beef, and ricotta cheese.
9. Prioritize Sleep
The brain requires solid sleep to re-energize brain cells, improve memory and focus, and even regulate mood. But kids and teens tend to get over excited when it’s time to wind down and they’ll resist sleep if they don’t have a consistent sleep schedule.
For younger children: Younger children will need more guidance than teens when it comes to devising a sleep schedule and relaxing bedtime ritual. Be sure they wake up at the same time every day and go to bed at the same time, even on weekends and during the summer. To wind down, try listening to soft music together, read them a story, and use sound machines and blackout curtains to avoid stimulating noise and lights that might rouse them.
For teens: Your teen is likely way past the storytime phase, but encourage them to have their own relaxing bedtime ritual. And be sure to keep screens out of the room so they don’t spend all night scrolling instead of sleeping.
10. Incorporate Meditation
Meditation isn’t reserved for adults or die-hard yogis. Everybody can do it, even your kids. And if they struggle with concentration and focus, this can help them get back on track. Researchers at the Columbia University Medical Center claim that meditation can actually change the structure and function of the brain through relaxation, which can ease stress and increase focus, memory, and attention span.3
For younger children: Younger kids tend to benefit from prompts when it comes to meditating. Try getting them into meditating when they’re already in a relaxed state, like just before bed. Lying down with closed eyes, have them listen to your voice as you guide their attention to different parts of the body or their breath.
For teens: Mindfulness training has become a common component in schools so your teen has probably already heard about meditation. To enforce it at home, encourage your teen to try a meditation app or create a space in the home where the whole family can engage in mindfulness practices like meditation together.
11. Homeopathic Medicines
In addition to trying the tactics above, you may want to consider homeopathic medication for your child or teen for extra support. Brillia is a non-prescription medication clinically proven to reduce symptoms of ADHD and anxiety while improving focus and clarity. Free from harsh, synthetic chemicals and harmful side effects, Brillia targets the brain-specific S100-B protein, a key regulator of many different intracellular and extracellular brain processes, to stop symptoms like hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsivity at their very source. At the same time, Brillia efficiently normalizes levels of monoamines in different parts of the brain, including the feel-good neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin to promote a balanced mood. Rest assured that taking Brillia will not mask your child’s personality, nor will the medication make them drowsy or affect their weight. Brillia also has no contraindications, which means you can add it to your child’s regimen without worry, even if they are already taking medication or supplements.
For younger children and teens: Brillia for Children is formulated for children five and older as well as teens. It’s important to be patient and consistent with results as Brillia is a gentle and cumulative product. Though it takes around 3-4 weeks to build up in the system, we recommend giving the product a full three months to assess how Brillia works for your child. For this reason we encourage first-time users to begin with our 3-month program because it offers the best discount and has the highest success rate with current Brillia users.
12. Set an Example
You might tell your child to put down their tablet, eat healthy foods, and try some mindfulness techniques, but if you’re not modeling this behavior for them, chances are they won’t follow through. Just as you would show your child how to be a good friend and a good listener, set an example for your child by controlling your own screen use, following a healthy diet, and practicing mindfulness techniques as a family. Show them what it means to finish tasks that you begin, to practice patience, and to not be afraid to try new things.
For younger children: Encourage your child to join you and participate as you fulfill everyday tasks like shopping for groceries, preparing dinner, exercising, and practicing self-care. This up-close-and-personal interaction allows you to model healthy tactics first-hand.
For teens: Let your teen play an active role in the household by helping to establish family rules and routines, and even consequences if they knowingly break a rule.
H2: True or False: Symptoms of ADHD in Kids Can Decrease with These Helpful Practices
Though genetics play a significant role in ADHD, environmental factors are just as important. By tweaking your child’s lifestyle habits, you can make a huge difference in their symptoms and teach them a number of coping techniques to handle their symptoms in a more productive way.
While the above lifestyle changes may be enough to help manage your child’s symptoms, if you need more support, then keep Brillia in mind as a gentle, targeted option. You’ll find that as your child matures, they will begin to make these healthier choices as a habit and start to learn behavioral ways to control their symptoms, eventually needing less and less of a product. If you decide to keep giving your child Brillia, rest assured that the medication can provide additional support without causing any harmful side effects. Brillia is merely a safe and impactful option that can be used before resorting to prescription medications and your child will not build a tolerance to it, so you do not have to incrementally increase their dosage.
Some other unique aspects about Brillia is that the medication is not habit forming, it does not cause drowsiness, lethargy or depression, and it does not affect appetite. As a very targeted option, Brillia does not alter blood chemistry so once they stop taking Brillia, it completely leaves the system without any "coming off" or side effects. The medication can be used for as long as it is providing the support that is needed, zeroing in on the source of symptoms to provide relief while allowing your child’s personality and potential to shine through.
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