Energy Levels is the degree of physical activity levels shown by children. Some children are more active than others; For example, some need to be moving around more than others whilst others can sit still for longer periods of time, and some are less active.
Energy Boosters for Children
If we’re totally honest, most of our children are bouncing off the walls and we are usually seeking outlets for their excess energy. But there are times when even our children need a little pick-me-up. Here are some safe energy boosts….
- Drink Water
- Get Moving
- Sleep Well
- Enjoy Proper Nutrition
It may sound counterintuitive, but if your child is feeling run-down or lethargic, exercise can boost energy! Taking a stroll, a jog, riding a bike or finding another source of movement your child enjoys increases energy naturally. As they increase their heart rate, their blood and brain become more oxygenated.
Channelling Your Child’s Seemingly Unlimited Energy
Why Do Children Have So Much Energy?
- Everything in this world is exciting and new. They want to explore and absorb everything they can.
- Children seem to have an overflowing reservoir of energy is that their bodies work differently than that of adults. Prior to puberty, kids recover from high-intensity activities more effectively than experienced endurance athletes do. Studies also show that they fatigue less during exercise. This makes it hard on exhausted parents who are already trying to juggle multiple tasks.
- Without a way to use up this excitement, energetic kids tend to become a bit difficult to handle. Unfortunately, while physical activity can make a dent in their energy levels, the only way to truly calm them down is to work out their brains as well. This can help to relieve feelings of intrigue, anxiety, excitement, and boredom. Why does addressing these feelings matter? Each child experiences the world uniquely and addressing both the mental and physical aspects can help channel their energy in a positive way.
- Every human being has a different personality and a varying view of the world. This makes some people more curious and some more easily stressed. It also makes some children seem more energetic. The reason for these differences can stem from genetics and environment, traumatic situations, a lack of boundaries, or even conditions like Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Children have different personalities and energy levels just like adults. If you have multiple children, their energy levels can be very different, too.
Need to Know– While having a high-energy children can be a symptom of ADHD; this alone doesn’t mean they have this condition. In fact, there are types of ADHD that have fatigue as a symptom. If you have concerns, talk a child’s Paediatrician.
Tips for Toddlers
For toddlers, there are also entertaining tasks all around you! Make your little one a part of your shopping experience. How many bananas did mommy put in the cart? What colour is that spinach? What type of cookie should we get? These simple questions make them think, which keeps them stimulated throughout the excursion.
Simple Ways to Wear Out High-Energy Children
High energy and impulsiveness
The main signs of high energy and impulsiveness are:
- being unable to sit still, especially in calm or quiet surroundings
- constantly fidgeting
- being unable to concentrate on tasks
- excessive physical movement
- excessive talking
- being unable to wait their turn
- acting without thinking
- interrupting conversations
- little or no sense of danger
These symptoms can cause significant problems in a child’s life, such as underachievement at school, poor social interaction with other children and adults, and problems with discipline.
Techniques for High Energy That Work for Children
If your child seems hyperactive there are strategies that might be helpful:
Plan the day- Plan the day so your child knows what to expect. Set routines can make a difference to how a child copes with everyday life. For example, if your child has to get ready for school, break it down into structured steps, so they know exactly what they need to do.
Set clear boundaries- Make sure everyone knows what behaviour is expected and reinforce positive behaviour with immediate praise or rewards. Be clear, using enforceable consequences, such as taking away a privilege, if boundaries are overstepped and follow these through consistently.
Be positive– Give specific praise. Instead of saying a general: “Thanks for doing that,” you could say: “You washed the dishes really well. Thank you.” This will make it clear to your child that you’re pleased and why.
Giving instructions– If you’re asking your child to do something, give brief instructions and be specific. Instead of asking: “Can you tidy your bedroom?” say: “Please put your toys into the box and put the books back onto the shelf.” This makes it clearer what your child needs to do and creates opportunities for praise when they get it right.
Incentive scheme– Set up your own incentive scheme using a points or star chart, so good behaviour can earn a privilege. For example, behaving well on a shopping trip will earn your child time on the computer or some sort of game. Involve your child in it and allow them to help decide what the privileges will be. These charts need regular changes or they become boring. Targets should be:
- immediate – for example, daily
- intermediate – for example, weekly
- long-term – for example, 3-monthly
Try to focus on just 1 or 2 behaviours at a time.
Intervene early- Watch for warning signs. If your child looks like they’re becoming frustrated, overstimulated, and about to lose self-control, intervene. Distract your child, if possible, by taking them away from the situation. This may calm them down.
Social situations- Keep social situations short and sweet. Invite friends to play, but keep playtimes short so your child does not lose self-control. Do not aim to do this when your child is feeling tired or hungry, such as after a day at school.
Exercise- Make sure your child gets lots of physical activity during the day. Walking, skipping and playing sport can help your child wear themselves out and improve their quality of sleep. Make sure they’re not doing anything too strenuous or exciting near to bedtime.
Eating- Keep an eye on what your child eats. If your child is hyperactive after eating certain foods, which may contain additives or caffeine, keep a diary of these and discuss them with a GP.
Bedtime- Stick to a routine. Make sure your child goes to bed at the same time each night and gets up at the same time in the morning. Avoid overstimulating activities in the hours before bedtime, such as computer games or watching TV.
Night-time- Sleep problems can be a vicious circle. Hyperactivity can lead to sleep problems, which in turn can make symptoms worse. Children may repeatedly get up after being put to bed and have interrupted sleep patterns. Trying a sleep-friendly routine can help your child and make bedtime less of a battleground.
Help at school- Hyperactive children often have problems with their behaviour at school, and the condition can negatively affect a child’s academic progress. Speak to your child’s teachers or their school’s special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) about any extra support your child may need.
Impulse Control Techniques That Work for Children
It’s normal for young children to be physically impulsive. Hitting, jumping off furniture, or running in the grocery store are common impulse control problems. By the tween and teen years, most kids have gained control over their physical impulses, but they may still be verbally impulsive. Your child may blurt things out without thinking about how her words may be perceived or she may say unkind things when she’s angry. With practice and consistent discipline, impulse control should improve over time. If, however, you have concerns about your child’s ability to make healthy decisions, or your child seems to be struggling more than other children his age, talk to a Paediatrician.
by Amy Morin, LCSW
A lack of impulse control is at the root of many behaviour problems. An impulsive 6-year-old may hit when he doesn’t get his way and an impulsive 16-year-old may share inappropriate content on social media without thinking about the potential ramifications.
Without appropriate intervention, impulsive behaviours can get worse over time. But the good news is, you can teach your child impulse control techniques. The more impulse control your child gains, the less likely he’ll be to grab things out of your hand, and he’ll be more likely to think twice about accepting that dare from a friend.
1. Teach Your Child to Label Feelings
Children who don’t understand their emotions are more likely to be impulsive. A child who can’t say, “I’m angry” may hit to show she’s upset. Or a child who can’t verbalize, “I feel sad,” may throw herself to floor and scream. Teach your child to recognize her feelings so she can tell you, rather than show you, how she feels. Start by teaching your child to label emotions, like angry, sad, or scared. Then, talk about the difference between feelings and behaviour. Make sure she knows it’s OK to feel angry, but it’s not OK to hit. When she can talk about her emotions in a meaningful way, she’ll be less likely to act them out.
2. Ask Your Child to Repeat the Directions
Sometimes, kids behave impulsively because they don’t listen to directions. Before you’ve finished your instructions, they sprint into action without any idea what you said. Teach your child to listen to directions by asking him to repeat your instructions before he takes action. Ask, “OK, what did I just tell you to do?” When he can correctly repeat back what you said—whether it’s clean his room or put his homework in his backpack—let him take action. You may need to start your instructions by saying, “Before you move, I want you to explain the directions back to me.”
3. Teach Problem-Solving Skills
Although brainstorming solutions sounds simple, problem-solving can be one of the most effective impulse control techniques. Teach your child there is more than one way to solve a problem. And it’s important to evaluate several potential solutions before springing into action. So whether your child is trying to fix the chain on her bicycle or she can’t figure out her math problem, encourage her to find five potential solutions before taking action. After identifying possible solutions, help her evaluate which solution is most likely to be effective. With practice, she can get used to thinking before she acts.
4. Teach Anger Management Skills
Low frustration tolerance may cause impulsive outbursts. Teach your child how to manage his anger so he can deal with his emotions in a healthy way. Show him specific strategies, like taking a few deep breaths or walking around the house to burn off some energy. You can even create a calm-down kit filled with tools that will help him relax. Send him to time-out, when necessary, but teach him he can place himself in time-out before he gets into trouble as well.
5. Establish Household Rules
Use an authoritative approach to parenting. Create clear rules and explain the reasons behind your rules. Make your expectations known before your child enters new situations. When he understands he needs to use an indoor voice in the library and walking feet in the grocery store, he’ll be less likely to misbehave. Explain the negative consequences of breaking the rules ahead of time as well. Then, he’ll be able to make better-informed decisions about his behaviour.
6. Provide Structure and Be Consistent
Keep your discipline consistent. Offer reminders like, “You need to hold my hand in the parking lot when we get out of the car,” each and every time you go to the store.
With enough practice, your child will grow accustomed to your rules and the consequences for breaking them. Whenever possible, keep your child’s routine the same. Less chaos can also reduce impulsive behaviour.
7. Practice Delayed Gratification
Kids need opportunities to practice delaying gratification. Make delayed gratification fun by creating a reward system. A token economy system can be a fun way to do this. Reward your child’s good behaviour with tokens. Then, allow him to exchange tokens for bigger rewards, like a trip to the park. Create small incentives that only require one or two tokens as well as big rewards, that require 20 tokens. Then, encourage him to save up his tokens for bigger ticket items, like going to the movies. Saving up for bigger rewards will help him practice delaying gratification. That’s an essential skill that will help him resist temptations that may lead to impulsive choices.
8. Be a Good Role Model
Your child will learn a lot about impulse control by watching you. Model appropriate ways to wait patiently and tolerate delayed gratification. Point out impulse control techniques that you’re using by saying things like, “I’d really like to buy that new laptop but I’m going to save my money for our vacation next summer.” Researchers at the University of Toronto found that self-talk plays a major role in helping kids manage their impulsive behaviour. Role model healthy self-talk by saying things like, “This is a long line but we have to wait patiently for our turn.” Talking to yourself out loud will teach your child how to develop an internal dialogue that will help him manage his impulses.
9. Encourage Plenty of Physical Activity
Encourage your child to play outside and ensure that she gets plenty of exercise. A child who has had an opportunity to run, jump, and climb will be better equipped to be more self-disciplined. Limit your child’s screen time and encourage her to play outside whenever possible. Look for opportunities to play outdoor games together as well. Tossing a ball, playing hopscotch, or playing tag will get some energy out.
Autistic fatigue – a guide for parents and carers
Exhaustion (fatigue) and then burnout can happen to anybody. Being autistic can make fatigue and burnout more likely, due to the pressures of social situations and sensory overload. If your child or the person you care for is experiencing fatigue or burnout, helping them to manage their energy levels is essential, as this guide explains.
What is autistic fatigue and autistic burnout?
‘Autistic fatigue’ and ‘autistic burnout’ are terms that came from autistic people, and we are learning from the experiences of autistic adults.
Fatigue, and then subsequent burnout, can happen to anybody. Autistic people, however, can be more susceptible to both, due to the pressures of everyday life, having to navigate social situations and sensory overload.
Trying to cope with these pressures can lead to exhaustion (autistic fatigue) and over time this can lead to extreme exhaustion or autistic burnout.
Autistic adults have described various ways that autistic fatigue and burnout have affected them. Autistic fatigue has often been described as exhaustion with additional difficulties such as:
- increased meltdowns and sensory sensitivity
- physical pain and headaches
- physically shutting down, including the loss of speech.
Autistic burnout affects all aspects of a person’s life, and this makes it different from professional burnout, which is related to work.
What causes autistic fatigue and burnout?
There are various things that can cause autistic fatigue. Autistic adults suggest several causes, including:
- sensory overload
- dealing with social situations
- masking or camouflaging their autistic traits
- suppressing stimming
- a sense of not meeting other people’s/society’s expectations of them.
Changes in your routines or day-to-day life, such as a change of school or job, can increase anxiety and can be additional causes for autistic fatigue and burnout.
Due to increased sensitivity and stress levels during autistic fatigue, your child may be less able to recover quickly from meltdowns. This exacerbates the exhaustion and stress they experience.
What can I do if the person I care for is experiencing autistic fatigue and burnout?
Use energy accounting (see “Getting Started”)
Energy accounting is a system used to set manageable limits on your energy levels so you do not deplete yourself to the point of burnout.
Help your child or the person you care for to set a limit on how much energy they have in a day or week and estimate how much certain activities drain them. Also work out how much certain activities energise them.
You can then try to plan and balance their activities and energy over a day or week to try and manage stress limits. Make sure you build in time for relaxation and recovery.
Time off and rest/relaxation
Whether you use energy accounting or not, time off from work or school and other high-stress activities is key to managing stress levels. Ensuring time for activities/interests that re-energise and promote relaxation is key. This could be connecting with family and friends or enjoying hobbies or interests.
Time without having to mask Autistic and other neurodivergent people often feel the need to hide or mask their autistic traits in public, for example by suppressing the urge to stim. It can be important to factor times into your child’s day for things like stimming, somewhere they feel comfortable and able to do so.