Today, children live in the same fast-paced world that you do. They also have to deal with hectic schedules that include school, play dates plus sports and other activities. Besides having all of that to contend with kids can lose their focus and concentration easily. However, many parents reach for a smartphone or tablet to help keep their child entertained during the day, to stave off boredom or reduce irritations during travel time. Regardless of the reasons parents use technology including smartphones and tablets to help keep their kids from becoming antsy, it could actually be worsening ADD/ADHD symptoms if your child already suffers from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Today, it is estimated that about 1 in 10 children has ADHD and that adds up to about 6 million children diagnosed with the disorder. As the #1 behavioral mental disorder of children, ADHD has surged over 50% in the past decade according to new data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
These symptoms may include:
- Trouble staying focused
- Forgetting homework
- “Spacing out,” or daydreaming in class
- Over activity in behaviors
- Disorderly behavior even for kids
- Unexplainable anger
- Impulsive talking or reactive responses
Increases in ADHD symptoms have been associated with the surge in popularity of mobile technology including smartphones and tablets. In a recent report by the Kaiser Family Foundation, children were recorded to spend about 7.5 hours every day with some type of screen in front of them.
So, how can you teach your children better attention and focus without brain games or videos on a tech device that may only worsen symptoms in the long run? Here are 5 ways to reduce ADHD in children naturally:
You don’t have to be a yogi to do a meditation. And it can be as simple as taking deep breaths in-and-out. Breathing meditations are easy enough for a young child to perform and have been shown in clinical studies as one of the most effective ways to reduce stress and boost brainpower in both adults and children.
Benefits of meditation for children with ADD/ADHD include:
- Improvements in focus, attention & concentration
- Reprieve from at-home stressors
- Better mental health
- Self-awareness with improvements in self-regulation
- Social responsibility & emotional development
“Meditation,” can be as simple as a breath exercise. Here is a simple technique to try for children’s mediation:
Dragon Breath (Alternate-Nostril Breathing) Instructions:
- Inhale deeply to fill the belly all the way with air. In through the nose for 5 seconds (1-2-3-4-5) and then out through the mouth for 5 seconds (1-2-3-4-5). Continue this for one minute, simply practicing double nostril breathing, or Dragon breath.
- Then, take your left hand and with the soft pad of your pointer finger press your left nostril inward to plug it. Continue the breathing, for one minute. In through the nose and out through the mouth in 5 second breaths (1-2-3-4-5).
- Then, alternate the inward breath by plugging your right nostril with the right pointer finger. Gently, press your fingertip inward and inhale through your nose, exhaling through your mouth for one minute.
For the final minute of this 5-minute meditation, finish with double-nostril breathing again, inward through the nose and outward through the mouth for 5 seconds (1-2-3-4-5) on each breath.
You can guide your child through this meditation by simply reading the breathing exercise instructions to them. Then, they can practice dragon breath any time they feel stressed. Clinical studies have shown that this type of meditation is able to boost the cognitive process in students with ADHD and benefit them academically. Because it can be so difficult for students with ADHD in the classroom, breathing mediation may help as it can be performed during any stressful time like before a test.
It may seem like a strange practice for a child but mediation can come in many forms. Kids don’t have to perform complicated poses or twisted asanas that challenge yogis. In fact, some of the most effective traditional yoga poses are playful and fun for children because they mimic the body positions of animals. Introducing children to yoga allows them to try these fun animal themed poses like:
- Cat crawl
- Crocodile (plank)
- Downward facing dog
- Hippo (Child’s pose, or resting)
Children need love and attention to meet their basic needs. However, many parents feel that smartphones and tablets can provide entertainment that will also help, “keep them company.” While this is true, technology is no replacement for quality time with a loving parent, friend or pet. Studies have shown that children who interact with dogs are able to gain an opportunity for improvements in social interactions and functioning, as well as learning capacity and socio-emotional development.
Additionally, the use of horses in clinical trials for those with ADHD revealed that using equines in activities may help to improve brain function even after therapy sessions.
4. Time Outdoors
Natural environments can be very soothing to the mind of a child. Especially for someone with ADHD, spending time outdoors can offer a way to reduce a range of ADHD symptoms and characteristics. Studies can confirm that as a neurobehavioral disorder ADHD symptoms can improve if children simply spend more “green time,” meaning that they walk to school instead of taking the bus, they do homework by an open window, or they play after school in outdoor sports. Natural spaces are ideal for reducing mental clutter that can contribute to stressing a child and worsening ADHD symptoms.
One great way for your child to spend green time is in their own garden. It is simple and easy to plant anything they like to eat. Choose from any seeds including carrots, radishes, lettuce, dill, kale and more! All children need in order to get their hands dirty in the garden is a brightly lit window sill, soil and a small pot. Just add the seeds to soil and sunlight and children can gain the benefits of horticultural therapy. Studies show that this type of therapy is able to improve attention and sociality in children with intellectual disabilities including that of ADHD.
There are many ways that you can improve your child’s mental health as well as brain function to reduce ADHD/ADD. Try these 5 ways to teach your child attention and focus without the use of technology and discuss the results with your child’s doctor. If additional therapies are needed you can work together to develop a long-term plan that may also include a counselor if there is a diagnosis of ADHD.
1. National Survey of Children's Health. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Survey of Children's Health.
2. Caroline Busch, Lara Tucha. Animal-Assisted Interventions for Children with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. A Theoretical Review and Consideration of Future Research Directions. February 1, 2016.
3. Sabrina E. B. Schuck, Natasha A. Emmerson. Canine-Assisted Therapy for Children With ADHD: Preliminary Findings From The Positive Assertive Cooperative Kids Study. J Atten Disord. 2015 Feb; 19(2): 125–137.
4. Jae Hyun Yoo, Yunhye Oh. The Effects of Equine-assisted Activities and Therapy on Resting-state Brain Function in Attention-deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: A Pilot Study. Clin Psychopharmacol Neurosci. 2016 Nov; 14(4): 357–364.
5. Frances E. Kuo, PhD, Andrea Faber Taylor, PhD. A Potential Natural Treatment for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: Evidence From a National Study. Am J Public Health. 2004 September; 94(9): 1580–1586.
6. Bo-Young Kim, Sin-Ae Park. Horticultural Therapy Program for the Improvement of Attention and Sociality in Children with Intellectual Disabilities.