After-dinner antics: Could your child be hyperactive?
June 9, 1999
Web posted at: 2:19 PM EDT (1819 GMT)
By Daphne Miller
It's a common scenario: A child who is usually well behaved all day at school or at daycare suddenly becomes a little terror right after dinnertime, racing around the house and wreaking havoc just when you're ready to collapse for the day. Is your child trying to drive you nuts, or could he be exhibiting symptoms of a behavioral disorder, you wonder? In most cases the answer is no.
Kids will be kids
It's normal for most children to have times in their day when they act very excited and energetic, and after dinner is a common time for this behavior. So-called hyperactivity does not mean that your child has a behavioral disorder, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Children who have ADHD usually show hyperactive behavior throughout the day, not just after dinner. If you feel that your child's hyperactive behavior is starting to appear at other times of the day or is affecting your child's sleep or school performance, then it's time to get professional help.
Could food be the culprit?
Many parents wonder if the dinner meal itself causes this wild-child behavior. In fact, the calories may give children a burst of energy, especially if they were extremely hungry and running low on fuel before dinner. However, there is really no good evidence that specific foods -- even those containing sugar, food additives, and stimulants like chocolate -- cause or worsen hyperactive behavior.
What your child is trying to tell you
It's important to look at the events that are taking place at the time of day your child is extra energetic and see how they might be affecting your child. Here are some possibilities:
Some kids don't get to reconnect with a beloved sister or brother they've been apart from all day until after dinner. Their reaction to this reunion can take any form, including chasing each other wildly around the house. If this is the case, try taking the whole family on a low-key, post-dinner outing, like a visit to a local park or recreation center where everyone can run around and blow off some steam to their hearts' contents.
Often, after dinner is a time for parents to relax and catch up with each other or on the day's events by reading the paper or watching the news. Unfortunately, this adults-only routine can unintentionally leave your child feeling ignored or excluded. Running around and jumping on the furniture may be your child's way of asking you to focus on her. After dinner, try taking 30 minutes or so with your child alone, talking to her about your day and her day, playing a game together or reading a book.
Children are getting homework assignments at younger and younger ages, and it is not uncommon for a young child to be stressed out about the work -- just the way you get stressed out at work. If you think your child's wild behavior is a way of acting out homework stress or avoiding the task altogether, then you may want to try speaking with her teachers to get their suggestions. Often, simply sitting down with your child and helping her get organized and started with her homework is all that is needed.
Since every family and every child is unique, you need to do some detective work and figure out exactly what is going on in your household.
Copyright 1999 by WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved.
RELATEDS AT :
Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Children
Attention Deficit Disorder home page
Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.
LATEST HEALTH STORIES:
China SARS numbers pass 5,000
Report: Form of HIV in humans by 1940
Fewer infections for back-sleeping babies
Pneumonia vaccine may help heart, too