The ability to focus is something that is important for a child, however, it is often development. The subject of child development is so vast and complex that individuals study it for years to become an “expert,” and even then, they have to continue learning for the remainder of their careers. That is because studies and research are always evolving and growing, and the world is learning more and more about this subject. This is also why parents should not feel too bad when they don’t seem to have all the answers.
When it comes to doing well in school, extracurricular activities, or even just projects at home, the ability to focus is incredibly important. However, some children tend to do better at this than others. When some children struggle with focusing it can be reflected in their school work and report cards, and it can be so difficult that it warrants contact from the teacher. Mom may be wondering what she can do, if anything, to help her child build on their attention span. We decided to dive into this and look at why children struggle with focusing, and what the experts say parents can do to help.
Why Children Can’t Focus
Since nothing about child development is easy, neither is why children may have a hard time with focus. There are many reasons why a child may struggle with this area, but we can highlight some of the more common reasons. According to Oxford Learning, a lack of focus can be a temporary problem, and it is most commonly seen when there is a change. If a child switched schools or is coming back from a break, they may have a hard time relearning how to focus. This will likely get better with time.
Another reason why children may have a hard time focusing is that they don’t know what they are supposed to be doing. If they are given a project or homework, and they are unsure of what they are supposed to be doing, they can have a hard time focusing. The same can also be true if they know the subject too well, and it is not challenging enough for them. They also could be in an overstimulating environment, and there is just too much going on for them to focus on what they are supposed to be doing. Now that we know some reasons a child may struggle with focus, let’s look at how to help them.
Designated Space & Time
According to PBS, Jamie M. Howard, Ph.D. has one of the best ways to help a child focus and that is making sure they have a designated space for activities. If they are struggling with focusing on homework, they should have a homework space where they can work. It should be free of distractions or anything that can overstimulate them. This is the same if they want to do a craft, or read, in peace. Make sure the environment is going to work for them.
It is also important to set up realistic times for your child to focus on a task. Every child is different, and their ability to focus will be determined by their age and development. It is important that parents are realistic and aware of how long their child can typically focus on, and not push it past that time. It is also wise to look at what time of the day your child focuses optimally. Mom may notice that the half-hour after dinner is when her child focuses the most, and this should be their homework time.
It’s All In The Delivery
According to Care, how mom is approaching her child with instructions can help them focus better. Sarah Conway, Ph.D. is the founder of Mindful Little Minds, and she stated that it is not always that a child can’t focus, but they have been given too many instructions that they don’t understand and they get overwhelmed. That it is important for parents to look at how they are delivering instructions to their children.
This will also depend on age and development. For younger children, they should only be given one clear task at a time and not a long list of things to do. Instead of saying “clean up this room,” ask them to clean one specific area, and when they are done, move on to another.
With older children, lists can be slightly longer, but write them down and have them check off the task as they do it. Don’t assume that your older child knows what they are doing, make sure they know how to do the task, and be patient if they ask for your help. A child who doesn’t know what they need to do is bound to get distracted a lot easier.