Helping your child focus is no easy task. Kids are doing a lot of multitasking these days, and constant distractions compete for their attention. With so many potential interruptions, it can be difficult for children to stop and focus on the task. Yet, helping children develop self-discipline, effective child focus strategies, and concentration skills at an early age is a basis for long-term success in high school, college, and the professional working world.
Here are some practical and manageable tips to help your child focus, complete their homework, and ultimately succeed.
- Get the energy out first.
Moving the body motivates the brain. Try having your child walk or bike to school, play outside after school, do chores around the house, or play on a sports team. Make sure your child has had a chance to run, walk, or jump around before sitting down to do homework. Your child’s focus may improve if they have undergone some physical activity.
- Turn off screens and cell phones.
Before your kid tackles homework or does anything that takes concentration, turn off the television. Or, if others are watching it, ensure your child is far enough away that he can’t be distracted by it. Also, shut down or move him away from the computer, and if your child has a cell phone, make sure that’s off too. To help your child focus, reduce their distractions.
- Make a to-do list
Having a lot of chores and homework assignments can be overwhelming for kids. Help your child focus on getting things done by making a list of everything he needs to do for the day or week. Then let him cross off each task as he finishes it. Completing a task will give your child a sense of accomplishment and help them focus on the next task on their list.
- Use signals
Avoid conversations when your child is working that will disturb your child’s focus. To cut out distracting talk, you and your child can develop a few basic signals. For example, when you point to his work, he needs to go back to what he was doing. Or when you raise your hand, that means he should stop what he’s doing and get to work. For some kids, it helps to lay a hand on their shoulder to bring them back into focus.
- Take breathers.
During homework time, make sure your child takes a few breaks. After working for 10 or 20 minutes (depending on his age), have him get up, move around, get a drink, and then go back to work. But don’t let him get involved in something else during the break. Just ensure that break time is a relaxing few minutes. A short break will help your child focus on the task.
- Set Expectations Early
Explain to your child that just as you have many important responsibilities (at home, work, community, etc.), learning is their most important “job” right now. The earlier you set your expectations and establish a routine for learning, homework, and studying, the easier it will be to maintain child focus. Make it a family practice: Allow older children to set an example for younger children—including younger children in homework and study hour by having them quietly color, look at books or do some other learning activity during this time.
- Establish Rules for Homework Time
Nothing is more distracting than a knock on the door and an invitation to play during homework time. Ensure your child’s homework and studying are completed (neatly and correctly) before going out to play. This can be hard in the summer when other children are off from school at different times. As seasons and activities change throughout the year, be flexible and adapt to the evolving schedules to help your child focus.
Rewards can be controversial because they can quickly become brides. But the fact is, we respond to positive reinforcement. If you think a positive reward system will work for your child, avoid money, material, or food rewards. Instead, negotiate the rewards based on spending quality time together. Ask your child to think of things they would like to do with you, and then make that a monthly goal. The proper rewards can be especially effective in helping your child focus.
- Learn What Style Works
Children have different ways of learning and processing information. Try to find out what style works best for them. Some children may work better if they can walk around and think out loud. Some children do better lying on the floor with their material spread out around them. As long as they are making good progress, be flexible with what works for them. Finding the right style that fits your child will inevitably help your child focus better.
- Work with Teachers and Instructors
Partner with teachers, instructors, therapists, and tutors for advice and support. They may have insights, observations, and suggestions you haven’t considered. Be open to trying new ideas. Work together to establish short and long-term manageable goals, expectations for improvement, and progress. Helping your child focus using a team effort can be incredibly effective.
Focusing, concentrating, and maintaining good study habits are life skills that will set your child up for success in all aspects of their lives- from the baseball field to the stage. It’s not just about completing assignments, and it’s about establishing discipline and perseverance that will give them the ability and self-confidence to pursue goals, manage setbacks and know what it takes to achieve. Use these tips to help your child focus today and for the rest of their life.
More about Jessica
Jessica Glenbocki is a Pediatric Occupational Therapist and is certified in sensory integration and interactive metronome. She received her master’s in occupational therapy from Cleveland State University if you want more personalized ways to handle your child’s focus issues, set up a session with Jessica through her personal page on Vitalxchange to receive a more personalized plan.