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When children do not calm down!

When children do not calm down!

Children can be busy and distracted, that's normal. However, if the offspring are almost always turned on and unfocused, perhaps ADHD is behind it.

Children are individuals. Some leaf through hours in picture books, others are naturally more vivacious, can be distracted faster, constantly want to have something new and be on the move. Such troubled minds do not necessarily have to be hyperactive right away. But if your offspring is more likely to be out of the ordinary with aggressive or distracted behavior, then you should be alert. He may be suffering from attention and hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD for short.

Some experts distinguish between ADD and ADHD: ADD stands for Attention Deficit Disorder. Other physicians speak of a hyperkinetic disorder or a hyperactivity disorder. In fact, all these terms mean the same thing: the child is very impulsive, very restless, much unfocused.

The boundaries between normal and worrying restlessness are fluid: There is no set value, from which a child has to be considered hyperactive. Some Fidgety Philip behave so badly that his fellow man can hardly bear him, another has problems only in certain situations and otherwise copes quite well with other people.

ADHD is not an invention of unemployed psychologists

In the past, children who could not afford were simply considered naughty. And suddenly all the world is talking about attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder. However, it is clear that the finding is not an invention of journalists or unemployed psychologists. "ADHD is a mental disorder that exists just as real as obesity," says an expert in child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Cologne.

Why some children become hyperactive has not been fully explored. Scientists assume that mainly functional disorders in the brain are responsible. How much they affect is, according to most experts, a matter of genes.

But also complications during pregnancy or a difficult birth can play a role. The hardships of children also depend on the people who deal with them: the family, the teachers, the playmates. The environment, with its ever-changing stimuli, also plays its part.

Carefully estimated, approximately two to three percent of all children and adolescents in Germany suffer from a severe attention and hyperactivity disorder; about ten percent are slightly hyperactive. Boys are on average three times more likely to be affected than girls.

In most cases, the first symptoms of attention and hyperactivity disorder already appear in preschool age. If you have a suspicion: Observe your child and other children, compare their behavior with peers from similar homes.

Above all, pay attention to whether your child can concentrate and whether it is attentive when it comes to new things. But it may also be impulsive, erratic and unpredictable. Or it fidgets all the time, never sits quietly in the chair, neither at school nor at lunch. If you find that your child behaves significantly differently than their peers, it could indicate an attention and hyperactivity disorder.

It may also be difficult for your offspring to complete completed activities. Or he is easily distracted and makes many careless mistakes at school. Even reckless behavior can be a symptom: If the child becomes impatient quickly and often before shaking, a disturbance is at least conceivable.

Even dreamers can be ADHD children

However, it is not the case that all children with ADHD always fidget or are always inattentive: these guiding symptoms do not have to occur simultaneously and not equally strongly. There are also various forms of attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder:

Children who are inattentive, but at the same time over-spontaneous, get the diagnosis from doctors: mixed-type ADHD.

Inattentive type ADHD can have children who used to be dreamers. Above all, they are jerky and unfocused, but they do not necessarily have to be fidgety.

The hyperactive-impulsive type, on the other hand, is a classic fidget: impetuous and restless, but capable of focusing on tasks.

Eighty percent of all children with an attention and hyperactivity disorder are struck by other behaviors that can put parents and teachers on the right track: for example, they're always against it - whether it's a specific goal, a particular opinion, and a specific instruction goes. Therefore, they often refuse common actions.


They jostle doorframes and are bad at school

Most children with ADHD find it difficult to deal adequately with other people, including peers: their social behavior leaves much to be desired. Others can barely coordinate their movements. This leads, for example, to jostling door frames unintentionally or to writing rather than writing.

Children with Attention Deficit Disorder and Hyperactivity Disorder may also experience other problems, for example, some are depressed, others have many fears or are having difficulty computing, writing and reading. This often causes them to fare worse at school.


Are you worried about your child because it behaves differently from others and often does strange things? That's definitely the right reaction. The next step should lead to an expert or a specialist. Checklists that allow you to check off symptoms are by no means sufficient to diagnose attention and hyperactivity disorder. Whether your child actually has ADHD can only be determined by doctors or psychologists.

First contact a pediatrician or your family doctor. You can clarify if your son or daughter is even a case for the ADHD specialist. It could, for example, be the case that at school the child dances so often out of line because it feels under- or over-challenged. An intelligence test and a review of the ability to write and compute may provide clarity here.

Essential information on attention and hyperactivity disorder:

  • The symptoms are neither typical of the child's age nor the appropriate level of development;
  • the child and his or her environment are impaired in at least two areas of life, such as school and family;
  • certain abnormalities were already apparent in preschool age;
  • The behavior persists for more than six months.

If the doctor determines that all this is correct, he will refer you to a specialist in child and adolescent psychiatry. Or a psychologist who works as a psychotherapist with children and adolescents.

The specialist then gets a more complete picture. Your experiences and assessments as parents are very important. The child is, of course, only with your consent, interviewed and tested. In addition, the expert will also want to talk to other caregivers such as educators about your child.


If you want your child - and you - to feel better again, you should do everything possible to change something within the family and to adjust your everyday life to the particular situation. Unpicking and relying only on the therapy and the psychologist is no solution. Only together will you continue!

Although it may be difficult at first, do not hesitate to involve educators. They are part of your child's life and can improve it with little things. For example, by the teacher putting your child forward in the classroom, with a direct view of the board. So your son or daughter is not distracted so quickly.

Let the doctor and the psychologist support you. A training for parents or a family therapy can prevent that all quickly find themselves back in the old vicious circles. In children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, behavioral therapies have proven to work in which situations which behavior is best. For larger problems, other forms of therapy can help.

Tablets keep the disorder in check

Even medicines can be useful. Talk about it with both the specialist and the psychologist. In Germany, two substances are approved for ADHD children over the age of six: methylphenidate and atomoxetine. These agents stimulate certain areas of the brain and regulate movement discomfort. The child seems relaxed and concentrates better.

Professionals recommend tablets if the restlessness and problems are very pronounced. At least 70 percent of the children treated in this way visibly reduce the abnormalities. However, you should be clear: The drugs do not cure or they let the disorder disappear.

The medications can disturb your sleep

In addition, your child will often take the substances for years. The drugs do not make you physically dependent. And so far, scientists have found no serious side effects over long periods of time. But the active ingredients will probably make your child unattractive. In addition, they can disturb sleep.

Therefore, be sure to ask the psychologist if the pills really do bring something - only then your child should swallow them. Pay attention to the most strategically appropriate time, because the effect usually lasts only a few hours.

In the discussion: unsaturated fatty acids and neurofeedback

Are there alternatives? Homeopathic remedies and low-phosphate diets have been shown to be ineffective in attention and hyperactivity disorder. It is still being discussed whether polyunsaturated fatty acids can help in the diet.

It is also uncertain whether neurofeedback can make sense: the child learns to actively influence his brain waves. Individual studies indicate the efficacy of both treatment methods. However, more research is needed to be really sure.


An attention and hyperactivity disorder can burden the relationship between parent and child so much that both sides do not even recognize what's going well in everyday life. Very important: Do not let it get you down, emphasize the good things in your life together! Show your child that they love it. And let it be felt, what it can make you happy. Play together. Try to experience something beautiful together as often as possible.

Establish clear family rules and stay consistent: ADHD children cannot control themselves so well. That's why you need to provide extra security and orientation. Let your child formulate the most important rules.

Praise a lot. A quick smile or a friendly "Thank you" is enough if your child did something well or followed a rule. For particularly difficult tasks, you can arrange a reward in advance that inspires.

Keep reminding yourself that your child actually has a hard time behaving like other children. Try to stay calm and keep track. But do not forget to take care of yourself occasionally.

Expert advice

Manfred Döpfner, Professor of Child Psychotherapy at the University of Cologne, answers

I suspect that my two-year-old has ADHD, an attention and hyperactivity disorder. What should I do? Until about the age of three, one would be very cautious about talking about ADHD, especially since even very normal toddlers can be exhausting and there are big differences in their development. Should the child still have conspicuously little perseverance in playing games, or if they constantly lose their frustration in uncontrollable outbursts of anger, it is good if parents take countermeasures early. They have to set clear boundaries, guide the child more strongly and turn to him if he does not fool around.

Praise your child whenever he has done well. And if it takes a lot of exercise, then create a framework where the child can fulfill his urge to move. In this way you avoid many vicious circles, which ultimately have an unfavorable effect on the development of the disorder and increase it even more. You can also get help from guidebooks and relevant websites as well as discussions with a pediatrician or a psychologist.

Can one avoid the onset of ADHD?

ADHD is not a disorder that you either have or do not have. Nor is there a sudden outbreak like a disease. For ADHD, according to what scientists know, there is a strong genetic predisposition that is more or less affected by external factors - the disorder, so to speak, creeps in. With love, affection and good education you can achieve a lot. You can not drive to zero on ADHD.

How do you deal with it when educators or teachers complain about the fidgety and aggressive behavior of their own child?

First, suppress the parental happiness and listen carefully to what educators and teachers say. Because these people have good comparisons with children of the same age. The question is always: In which situations does which problem arise and how much? ADHD children can behave very differently in different contexts. If there are difficulties in the school, but not at home, then it may be that it is a lighter form of ADHD - for example, the predominantly inattentive type. Maybe the child in school is also over-or under-challenged. Then it may show abnormalities without an ADHD. If it is very problematic at home, but not in kindergarten, you have to look at the family conditions. If you are lucky, you can change the external conditions so that the child is better again. Good cooperation with educators or teachers helps everyone involved.

I do not believe in giving medication to my ADHD child. Does it have to be that way?

First of all, there is no obligation to treat ADHD with medication. However, I think it is a serious error of the art to not even consider medications - especially if there is a severe symptom that is getting worse. Parents should try to think rationally and balance the potential benefits of drug treatment with potential side effects.

The question is also: What do I do to my child if I do not let it be treated? If in extreme cases it is completely socially excluded, can not build relationships with peers or has to go to a special school? Of course, no child has to swallow tablets if other therapies and behavioral measures improve their behavior within a few months.

For lighter forms of ADHD I would not recommend medication. But maybe it is enough to give the pills only for the lessons? The positive psychological effects can last into the evening. Once a year, you can then make a controlled omission attempt in complete control. ADHD treatment with medication does not mean you have to go through it for a lifetime.


Artificial food additives have been suspected for over 30 years of adversely affecting children's behavior. A study by the University of Southampton, UK, once again supports this assumption: Certain dyes and preservatives may increase hyperactivity in children. In this respect, these substances may also play a role in ADHD, in attention and hyperactivity disorder.

Psychologist Donna C. McCann and her team evaluated the behavior of 137 three-year-olds and 130 eight- and nine-year-olds for their investigation. The researcher gave the children regular fruit juices for several weeks. Some got drink mixes with additives, others without. Not knowing who had drunk what, parents, teachers, educators and professionals then judged the children's behavior. They found that the children who had drunk juices with additives were more fidgety than before.

The German Federal Institute for Risk Research assesses the result with caution. Although it provides evidence that the consumption of colorings and preservatives and increased activity of children may be related. But that does not prove that the additives are actually the cause.

Donna C. McCann, head of the study, also warns against hasty conclusions: parents should not believe that they could avoid hyperactive disorders by only using organic juices.

Nevertheless, food additives and preservatives are two of many risk factors. And you can control it yourself.

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