Dealing With Your Child’s ADHD and Agitation

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ADHD and Agitation

Your child has been diagnosed with ADHD and is taking medication to help relieve some of the restlessness, impulsivity and distractibility. You hope some of the agitation, outbursts, restless wandering and anxiety start to go away, but these symptoms seem to continue. The agitation seems better at times, but during stressful periods – exams, family gatherings or in new situations, it comes back, expressing itself as strong emotion, urgency and, sometimes fear.

Mood Stabilizer Medications

You never knew that ADHD and agitation went together, but in your child, it seems they accompany each other like a pair of mismatched twins. Agitation is associated with physical restlessness, and leads to inappropriate motor, vocal and tic activity. Those feeling agitation may wander or pace aimlessly, swear or argue pointlessly.

If your child’s agitation interferes with the ability to interact with others, your home life or school performance, ask the doctor about mood stabilizer medication. Mood stabilizers are a class of medications that help treat mental disorders that cause agitation. These disorders include psychosis, anxiety disorders, dementia, mood disorders and insomnia. [1]

Work With Your Child

Children diagnosed with ADHD begin to feel badly about their inability to accomplish, both at home and in school. When they experience failures because they aren’t able to maintain their focus or because they act on impulse, they can become highly agitated.

Focus on your child’s good behaviors and qualities. “Catch” the good behaviors and offer praise for them and for the good qualities you have seen in your child. Don’t make it obvious you’re trying to catch the good moments and behaviors – instead, work it into your normal interactions with your child.

Offer frequent feedback to your child, keeping it brief and talking in specific terms (“I noticed you stuck with your spelling homework until you finished. I’m proud of you!”)

Make sure your child gets plenty of nutritious snacks and meals. A well-nourished child is less likely to develop symptoms of agitation.

Find ways to make your child’s nighttime routine conducive to falling asleep more easily. Children with ADHD can have problems falling asleep or staying asleep. The child who gets enough sleep at night is less likely to melt down and become agitated, according to the University of Michigan Health System. [2]

Consistent and Stable Home Environment

Work to make your home routine stable. Children with ADHD need a routine they can come to depend on every day – for example knowing they will eat dinner at 6pm every evening and be in bed by 9pm. If you do have to change your routine, say for an overnight trip to visit family, let your child know well in advance to allow him or her to get used to the idea.

Make sure your school-age child has an area in your home for homework; add to this stability by making sure homework is scheduled for the same time frame every day. Creating more stability to your child’s routine lessens the risk of agitation. [2]

Lots of Exercise

Give your child an opportunity to exercise and release excess energy. When you give time for physical play, ADHD and agitation become less of an issue. The ADHD symptoms don’t go completely away, but burning off energy helps your child to calm down. A calmer child is less likely to become agitated. [2]

When you get your child to exercise during the day, make sure it doesn’t take place too close to bedtime – the physical exertion will serve only to make it harder for your child to fall asleep.

Give your child opportunities to become involved in a sport – perhaps a team sport like basketball or a physical pursuit such as gymnastics or martial arts. It’s important for the child with ADHD to work off additional energy while learning mental discipline, and martial arts is an excellent choice that gives your child a way to tap into inner resources.



ADD/ADHD Advances: Mood Stabilizers


University of Michigan Health System: ADHD: What Parents Need to Know