It’s perfectly normal for kids to have a lot of energy. Some children are more active than others. How can you help your child calm down?
By the time they reach kindergarten, children are better able to regulate their movements when necessary, because their motor skills are improving. They’re also mature enough to exude better self-control. This enables them to better express their emotions and stay focused for longer periods of time.
However, even school-aged children need to move. A certain amount of restlessness is normal and nothing to worry about. For most children, movement is a great way to develop their motor skills, relieve stress, and let out their emotions. That being said, some kids are more turbulent or need to move around more than others.
What is a high-energy child?
A child who fidgets a lot, can’t sit still, and is always running around may be dealing with psychomotor agitation. Although it can sometimes be overwhelming for family and friends, it’s important to let children run around and have unstructured play time. However, if this type of behaviour goes on for too long or strikes at inappropriate times, it can be a good idea to teach your child a few strategies they can use to calm down.
Likely causes of restlessness
There are many reasons why a child might have too much energy. Watch your child carefully and pay attention to what they’re experiencing if you notice that they’re more restless than usual.
Something may be bothering them. For example, they may be anxious or insecure about a major change at school, at home, or in their environment. Since it’s difficult for them to convey their unease, they may seek to alleviate their stress and discomfort through restlessness.
If they are struggling to fit in at school or with their family, they could be trying to get your attention so you’ll take care of them.
Your family environment or their immediate surroundings may not be conducive to calm. Implementing a routine could give them some much-needed stability. A stable, predictable, and consistent environment will help reduce your child’s energy levels. In fact, it can be a good idea to establish a calming routine before bedtime to help them fall asleep more easily.
They may not be getting enough sleep.
It could also just be in your child’s nature to be more energetic than the average.
Is it hyperactivity?
It can be tempting to label a high-energy child as “hyperactive.” However, you should be careful. Only a qualified specialist can make such a diagnosis. It’s recommended that you consult a doctor or psychologist if your child always has too much energy or if their restlessness disturbs others, gets in the way of their schooling, or makes family life impossible. For more information, read our fact sheet on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
How to help your child calm down
- Make sure to establish a stable routine that promotes sleep. School-aged children should sleep 10 to 11 hours a night.
- Make sure your child eats enough healthy food. Breakfast is especially important for their concentration.
- Encourage your child to move. They should be getting at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Go for walks, play in the park, or play ball games with them. Sports that teach self-control, such as martial arts, can also have beneficial effects on their concentration.
- Avoid computers, mobile devices (tablets and phones), and TV before bedtime. Not only do screens overstimulate the brain before sleeping, but the bright light can wake us up when it’s time to wind down. Children shouldn’t have screens in their rooms, either.
- Teach your child how to relax. Do simple relaxation exercises with them. Practise abdominal breathing, or do a bit of yoga or meditation. For more information, read our fact sheet on relaxing through play. If your child loves music, you could also listen to some soothing songs before bed.
- Help your child learn to express themself and recognize their emotions. When you read stories together, ask your child about what the characters may be feeling, or how they might feel in a similar situation. Over time, you’ll be able to use this strategy in everyday life to help your child cope with restlessness triggered by emotional regulation.
- Reassure your child. If a change or conflict is causing your child to feel anxious, help them find a solution that will make them feel better. It may help calm them down.
- Take regular breaks during homework time. Don’t hesitate to make things fun by writing their vocabulary words on a small chalkboard or going over them in the bath. Your child doesn’t always have to be seated in order to learn. For example, you could let them pace around the room while they practise spelling their vocabulary words or addition tables.
- Praise your child when they manage to stay calm on their own.
Things to keep in mind
Having too much energy is a typical aspect of childhood development. Your child will gradually learn to control their behaviour.
A number of factors can cause a child to have too much energy, such as when their basic needs aren’t met (hunger, lack of sleep, etc.), when there’s been a major change in their life, or when they’re experiencing stress.
If your child’s behaviours are disrupting others, or if their self-esteem is suffering, don’t hesitate to consult a health care professional.
Scientific review: Ariane Leroux-Boudreault, psychologist
Research and copywriting: The Naître et grandir team
Updated: September 2021
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