Finding the right sport for your child can be difficult at the best of times, but ADHD in children makes it even more difficult. They may be left out of team sports because of their difficulties with coordination or following directions, and end up bullied or isolated as a result.
Social isolation can have lasting impacts on a child's well-being.
Martial arts is a great activity for kids with ADHD can help increase your child’s focus and develop skills such as self-control and concentration, as well as self-defense and responsibility. Here are eight ways ADHD-friendly martial arts can help your child.
1. It Shows Them That Respect is a Given
Students bow to each other, and to their teacher, who bows to them in turn, as a gesture of mutual respect.
No matter what level a student or teacher is at, respect is key to functioning in the martial arts world. Respect for instructors is a given, as well as respect for fellow students. This teaches children that every person should be treated fairly and with kindness. Your child can learn to support others and be supported in turn, in a classroom that endeavors to teach positivity and acceptance every day.
2. Concentration Is Key
Attention and focus are key component of any athletic program, but especially in martial arts. Instructors know how to build up your child’s concentration and help them to re-focus. They can do this any number of ways, but hitting a physical reset button, such as performing a basic stance, helps them focus on the next step. Depending on the martial art, your child may also learn meditation/breathing exercises for focus that he or she can then use outside the dojo.
3. It Helps Them Set Reasonable Goals
There is no pressure to move up to a black belt right away or even in a certain timeframe. In fact, getting a black belt is supposed to take years – but there are still many benchmarks students can meet along the way, so they don’t get frustrated or feel like they are stagnating. Students are encouraged to work at their own pace, and instructors will help them set goals on a person-by-person basis. That way, your child can grow in confidence with each goal they accomplish.
4. It Builds Coordination
Being able to practice the moves slowly and repetitively allows your child to build up muscle memory and understand how the motions should flow. Over time, this can increase their coordination skills as they learn how their body moves. Children with ADHD can sometimes struggle with coordination, but martial arts can help develop motor skills and increase mind-body awareness.
5. They’ll Learn Step-by-Step
Each move is broken down into steps to make the learning process easier. As your child practices each step over and over again, it will become easier and easier for them to perform. Instructors are experts in breaking down even seemingly complex moves into understandable ways that play to your child’s strengths and abilities so they can practice the moves with confidence.
6. Self-Defense is Taught – Alongside Self-Control
While martial arts teaches fighting moves, the focus in on self-defense and not violence. Martial arts offers a safe environment for children to work out their anger and frustration. That way, children learn to channel their feelings into practice and learn self-control of their moods in a space that allows them to experience those emotions and work through them in a secure manner.
7. Excess Energy is Not a Problem
Even children who are larger/smaller than their peers, and thus risk hurting themselves or others, can still train and learn using tools like the youth-sized Throwing Buddy.
In a martial arts program, energy is key. Instructors are aware that children can have excess energy, so an ADHD-friendly martial arts program is a safe and effective means of allowing your child to burn off that energy in a manner that can benefit them emotionally, physically and mentally.
8. Self-Improvement is the Focus
While team sports may be hard for your child to participate in due to rules or being lost in the team, martial arts is all about self-improvement. And no one sits on the bench in martial arts! So rather than feeling as though they do not belong or being worried that they are going to let the team down, your child can learn to improve their own skills, at their own pace.
Martial Arts Can Help Your Child
A martial arts class can provide so much for your child. Camaraderie, support and friendship are all part of the package. More than that, your child can learn to control their mind, body and emotions while growing physically and developing coordination skills. ADHD can make learning difficult, but instructors know how to help kids re-focus on the task at hand and provide clear instructions. Martial arts is a sport that will accept kids – no matter their background, gender, or learning disabilities – for who they are and help them grow into strong, confident people capable of conquering challenges!
Have you or your child used martial arts to cope with ADHD or another disability? Interested in sharing your story? Contact me (Sarah) about writing a guest article for The Centurion. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Just make sure you include the words “guest blogger” or something similar in your subject line!