Trouble focusing can be a long-term or short-term challenge. Either way, it makes learning hard. It also impacts everyday life.
You can’t always change the circumstances that make it hard to focus. But there are ways to help your child cut through distractions and get things done.
If staying focused is hard for your child, try these six strategies.
1. Jump right into projects.
The longer you put off starting a task, the harder it can be to focus on it. That goes for projects for school and around the house.
That doesn’t mean your child has to do everything at once, though. To make it easier to get started, try breaking tasks into chunks. The important thing is to not delay getting started.
2. Limit directions to one or two at a time.
When kids struggle with focus, it can be hard for them to listen to, remember, and follow through on directions. So try not to overload your child with too many directions at once.
Let’s say it’s time for homework. You might tell your child to check the assignment book, get out the right materials, and start working. If that’s too much for your child to focus on and keep in mind, break it down into single steps.
3. Set a timer.
Knowing there’s a limit to how long they have to stay focused can make it easier for kids to hang in there. Set a timer for how long your child needs to work before having a quick snack or taking a break. You can increase the amount of time little by little as your child gets better at focusing.
4. Try mindfulness.
Mindfulness exercises are all about paying attention and focusing. Studies have shown that mindfulness can help kids improve their behavior and their ability to focus on lessons and on schoolwork.
One way to practice is to sit quietly and focus on breathing in and out. Taking even a few deep breaths before class or a test could make a difference.
5. Be open to what works.
Some people need total quiet to focus. Others do better with noise. That’s why it’s important to ask kids what works best for them.
Maybe your child wants to listen to music while doing homework. Give it a try and see how it goes.
6. Direct focus back to the task.
Even when using these focus techniques, kids might still get distracted. That’s why they also need strategies to get back on task once they’ve drifted.
Come up with a signal for when your child’s mind starts to wander. It might be putting a hand on your child’s shoulder or saying a specific word. Tell your child’s teacher you’re trying these strategies at home.
Other ways to help your child focus
There are lots of other strategies, techniques, and low-cost tools you can use to help your child with focus at home.
Struggling with focus or any other skill can take a toll on a child’s self-esteem. Praise your child’s hard work to improve focus. Point out even small improvements. And let your child know that focus skills can get better.
And remember to talk about your child’s strengths, not just challenges. Celebrate focus wins, big and small. When kids understand what they’re good at, it builds confidence and helps them stay motivated when things get tough.
About the author
About the author
The Understood Team is made up of passionate writers and editors. Many of them have kids who learn and think differently.
Bob Cunningham, EdM has been part of Understood since its founding. He’s also been the chief administrator for several independent schools and a school leader in general and special education.