Why Some Kids Are So Forgetful

By The Understood Team
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At a Glance

  • Too much stress or not enough sleep can make kids forgetful.

  • Trouble staying focused is another common reason.

  • There are ways to help your child get better at remembering things.

“Remember? We just talked about this?”

We all forget things from time to time. What were the three things I needed to get at the store? But some kids seem to forget things all the time.

If your child has trouble following directions and remembering lists, you’re not alone. Some parents and caregivers feel like they have to keep repeating themselves because their child can’t remember what they said the first two or three (or 10) times. 

Many kids are often forgetful. But are rarely the cause. It’s much more likely that something very common is causing your child’s forgetfulness. That might be not getting enough sleep or having trouble staying focused.

Here are three simple strategies to try if your child is having trouble remembering things:

1. Get your child’s attention. Kids may appear to be listening to you when they’re actually thinking about something else. Say your child’s name and make eye contact before you give directions. Get your child to repeat the directions back to you.

See if this helps your child “tune in” and hold on to what you say.

2. Help your child get more sleep. Kids who are always tired can have trouble concentrating. Is your child going to bed too late? Or maybe your child is worn out from long school days, sports practice, and other activities.

Try to improve your child’s sleep schedule. (If this is very hard to do, talk with your health-care provider about any sleep problems you’re seeing.)

3. Help your child de-stress. Stress can make it hard to pay attention. Big test coming up? Or maybe your child is struggling socially? Our minds can “blank out” when we’re preoccupied with other things.

Get outside and play, or take a few minutes to relax together. You can even see if meditation helps your child’s memory.

We all have bad days, busy days, and stressful days. Being forgetful from time to time is common. But if you think your child is often not “hearing” you, reach out to your child’s teacher. Find out if the same thing is happening at school. Then talk together about next steps.

Getting your child’s hearing tested can help you make sure your words are actually being heard. You may also want to learn about trouble with focus. This can affect a skill called working memory, which can make kids seem forgetful. (And there are strategies to help with that, too.)

Key Takeaways

  • It’s common for kids to be forgetful sometimes.

  • If you think your child is often not “hearing” you, find out if the teacher is seeing the same thing.

  • Getting your child’s hearing tested lets you make sure your words are actually being heard.

About the Author

About the Author

The Understood Team 

is made up of passionate writers, editors, and community moderators. Many of them learn and think differently, or have kids who do.

Reviewed by

Reviewed by

Elizabeth Harstad, MD, MPH 

is a developmental behavioral pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital.

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