Health, Food & Nutrition

A Soothing Setting for the Anxious ADHD Child

Ease your child’s anxiety with these calming tips.

Soft lit candles make for a soothing setting for ADHD kids.

If you have a child with ADHD, chances are there’s a comorbid condition or two piggybacking on top of it. My daughter has anxiety and ADHD. I guess no one got the memo that I didn’t want to participate in the buy-one-get-one-free promotion.

A lot of things cause anxiety: brain chemistry, social situations, school, sensory dysfunction, cable news, stress at home, you name it. Some anxiety triggers are out of our control, and we have to develop ways to cope with them, especially when we’re out in public. The odor of chemical air fresheners in public bathrooms stresses my daughter. She copes by holding her breath when she’s in there, and nearly passes out when she leaves. It’s fine! I’m proud that she’s developed her own way to cope, and it usually gives us a good chuckle.

The good news is that, with minor changes at home, you can give your kids a warm, cozy, and calm retreat from smelly public bathrooms, and whatever else gets their shorts in a bunch.

Keep overhead lights off, especially fluorescents. Instead, use table lamps, especially in bedrooms or playrooms, so the light is not coming directly from above. When choosing your bulb hue, always go with the warmer yellow or orange shades and stay away from white or blue tones.

Choose a peaceful color. White walls are cold, harsh, and may cause anxiety. Red is a high-energy color that spikes a child’s blood pressure and contributes to stress and aggression. Orange encourages creativity and may chase away the blues. To reduce anxiety, go with warm earth tones. Blue hues are known for slowing down the heart rate, reducing respiratory rhythm, and encouraging calm and focus. In general, stick with muted or pastel shades, and avoid primary colors.

Cut down on abrasive background noise when having a conversation. Distracting background noise is competition for foreground noise — in this case, thoughtful, heartfelt conversation. It’s tough for a child to talk about the day or quietly do homework in the living room when she’s all amped up from the latest “breaking news” tidbit from cable TV or the blaring sounds of I’m Sexy and I Know It, which mom is dancing to in the kitchen while cooking dinner. Instead, put on classical music or a CD of nature sounds.

Play some water music. Buy a small table fountain. Kids and parents alike are soothed by the sound of moving water. Being near it causes positive physiological reactions. The negative ions clean the air and slow down breathing, which can break the cycle of anxiety. A table fountain is also a great way to block out those annoying buzzing noises that seem to emanate from anything with a plug. I’m talking to you, fridge!

Go green around the house. Go a step further and give your child her own plant to care for in her room. Plants add oxygen to the atmosphere, and some, like the Boston fern, can detoxify indoor air. If that’s not amazing enough, looking at green plants has a calming effect on the body.

Get rid of artificial scents and go natural. Artificial scents, like those found in candles and air fresheners, may contribute to asthma and adversely affect the brain. Replace them with essential oils, which are proven to be medicinally therapeutic for many things that ail you. Lavender is my favorite for promoting calmness and alleviating sadness.

These changes at home can make a world of difference for the entire family. Adults, kids, and pets will benefit. And don’t worry, mom. You can get your groove on when the kids go to school!