Are you worried that your child can’t focus at school? Have you received feedback from a concerned teacher that your son or daughter cannot concentrate during class?
One thing to remember is that not all children will be able to focus through an entire class time, and it is a tougher thing to ask of your children than you might think.
But if your child’s lack of concentration is affecting their grades and disturbing the class, it’s time to look at some strategies to help them focus.
Here are some of the underlying reasons why your child might have difficulties paying attention in class, and some examples of strategies to help improve their concentration at school.
Causes of your child’s lack of concentration at school
Some children are just naturally calm and patient by nature and have little difficulty focusing on things for extended periods of time, while other children have a constant stream of ideas racing through their heads, which makes them more hyperactive and less able to sit still for long.
2. Developmental stage
Younger children tend to have more difficulty focusing on anything. That is why, for example, the length of a “time out” should be based on your child’s age.
The good news is, as children grow, they tend to develop more self-control and the duration of their ability to concentrate increases. The passage of time will likely diminish some of your child’s struggles to focus as you help them increase their self-discipline.
3. Behavioral Disorders (ADHD/ASD/ODD)
Children with behavioral disorders often have difficulties focusing at school.
A child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can struggle to focus due to hyperactivity, inattentiveness and impulsiveness, whereas a child with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) might struggle with their disruptive behavior, indifference and outbursts. Meanwhile, a child with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) might be distracted by their ritual tendency to reorganize, recheck and perfect things.
4. Anxiety and stress
When your child carries excessive worries and stress due to problems with social relationships, friendships or family, it’s naturally hard for them to concentrate.
That’s why it’s so important to regularly examine your child’s overall emotional and mental state through conversation and provide support to help resolve any problems that might be hindering their concentration at school.
5. Lack of nutrition and sleep
A healthy body promotes a healthy mind. If your child is not getting enough nutrition to support their physical and mental development or they don’t get enough sleep at night, their attention span will suffer.
Provide enough choices of food throughout the day for your child to grab nutritional meals and snacks. Provide a quality sleep environment and ensure enough time for your child to recharge their much-needed energy for better concentration at school.
Tips to help your child focus at school
1. A clock and short-term goals
If your child is struggling to pay attention for the duration of an entire class, provide a clock or stopwatch set to whatever length of time the class lasts for, and some small, unobtrusive physical objects that can be switched up every ten minutes or so to mark the passage of time.
For example, your child could hold a pop fidget toy for the first ten minutes, as a way of minimizing fidgeting and allowing them to focus on listening to the teacher and following class. After ten minutes, your child could switch out the pop fidget toy for a stress ball to squeeze, and the next ten minutes could be a stretch fidget toy, and so on; for the last ten minutes they could take out an egg timer hourglass until the end of the class. This way your child can see the time progressing, which will give them motivation and a sense of achievement as they distract themselves from boredom or feelings of redundancy.
2. Achievable goals and rewards
Assign your child a goal he or she can easily attain, which will motivate them to focus in class.
For example, challenge him or her to ask 1 question related to the topic they are studying in class, and reward them once they succeed. (The reward can be arranged at home after getting feedback from your child’s educator.) This way your child will be motivated to pay attention to the subject—by the promise of a reward for their effort.
Another example of a suitable challenge for older children would be to get them to come up with some keywords, related to a topic they are studying, that they can research after class & write a summary of what they’ve learned. Offer some choices of reward for successfully completing the project and let them choose.
3. Limit distractions and redirect
Arranging for your child to sit in the front row, away from doors and windows, where they will have a limited view of their peers and other potential distractions, can help improve your child’s attention span.
Seating close to the front will also help the teacher guide your child with cues and supervise them more closely, so they can follow the class without losing track. Being more closely monitored by the teacher helps ensure he or she stays on the right page, and more frequent eye contact with educators helps hold their attention longer.
Discuss with your child’s educator to select the best seat for your child to eliminate distractions and redirect their attention in class. It is better to assign the seat in a discreet way, so your child doesn’t feel embarrassed by the special treatment.
4. Customized learning material
If your child’s lack of focus results not only in poor grades, but also leads to distractions for other children in class, the problem escalates considerably for you as a parent.
In this case, try to build customized learning materials with the teacher’s consent. Prepare learning activities based on your child’s learning level and interests to help them relate to topics covered in class.
For example, if your child struggles in math and the class is too hard for him or her to follow, prepare materials they can easily accomplish while having fun doing it. If your child happens to be interested in, say, Minecraft, you could create an activity sheet of math questions related to the characters and resources your child plays with in the game.
If, on the other hand, your child is not interested in the class because the material is too easy for your child’s level of ability, you could prepare more advanced questions related to the topic, so your child can challenge themselves during class.
Don’t be discouraged—if children all focused well during class and your child was one of the exceptions, there wouldn’t be hundreds of articles offering to help children pay attention in school. If your child’s lack of concentration is badly affecting their grades and school life, focus on changing their environment and providing tools. By actively supporting your child’s integration into the school learning environment with well-prepared strategies, your child has a better chance to improve their attention span. More importantly, understand your child’s struggle and remember to praise even small efforts in the right direction. With your persistent support and encouragement, your child will be better able to develop interest in class and improve their focus.
You might also be interested in reading the posts below:
- How to deal with child gaming addiction—a step-by-step guide!
- What are attention-seeking behaviours, and how do you stop them and redirect your child?
- Why some kids cannot follow a routine