An adult’s attention span is only twenty minutes long. Even then, most of us must learn tricks along the way, so we can focus our concentration for longer. For teenagers and school children things are even harder! This guide will help you to boost your child’s concentration.
If your child can’t concentrate, it is often a symptom of another problem. For example, are they having trouble concentrating because they are too tired?
You can help by ensuring that your child has had an adequate night’s sleep; has a nutritious, healthy diet and by helping them to be stress-free and eager to learn.
Tiredness accounts for a lot of problems. It’s a bad idea to drive if you haven’t had enough sleep, so make sure that your child doesn’t drive their brain without rest, either. Sleep helps with brain function, memory and concentration – all essential for learning.
Some sleep facts:
So do try to limit technology usage before bed.
Exercise also helps to keep the brain healthy and active. Getting oxygen into the lungs, through the bloodstream and feeding the brain, helps memory and understanding – vital for the school day!
Children need a healthy, nutritious and well-balanced diet. This provides essential fuel for the brain to function. Fruit, vegetables, complex carbohydrates, vitamin and mineral-laden protein foods like oily fish are valuable.
However, eating a heavy meal requires more energy to be directed to the stomach for digestion. This steals brain fuel, which can lead to afternoon sluggishness. So, eating light, regular meals is best.
Sometimes, a food sensitivity can lead to ‘fuzzy’ thinking, tiredness, or affect Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Notice if common foods affect your child’s ability to concentrate.
Food additives, or even commonplace items like bread and sugar, can affect concentration.
Since our bodies are 60% water, your child needs to drink water – which aids concentration.
Upsets and changes in circumstances; problems at home, at school, or with friends can cause children to lose focus in class.
If they are anxious, their ‘fight, flight, or freeze’ instincts set in – and learning becomes impossible. They can’t retain information.
Sometimes low self-esteem can cause children to feel anxious. If a child feels they can’t do something, they may either panic – which makes learning impossible – or lose interest.
Your child might be going through something you don’t know about. Encourage them to talk to you about any problems.
Try to establish a positive relationship with their teacher/s. Schoolwork could cause them stress, too, making it hard to concentrate.
Is their schoolwork too hard for them? Or too easy?
Children often become distracted…
Talk to your child / teachers about any areas they’re having difficulty with.
If they find the work too easy, speak to the teacher about setting them more challenging work.
Your child’s beliefs affect the way they learn, how they perceive their own intelligence, and how resilient they are to failure.
Some children have a ‘fixed mindset’ – believing that their intelligence level is fixed and cannot be changed. They may think themselves ‘bad at Maths,’ or ‘just average’ or ‘not clever’. Such beliefs block progress.
Help your child to develop a ‘growth mindset’. Intelligence grows with practice. Teach children that through determination and hard work they can achieve anything. More information and guidance is available on the BBC website.
Help your child to find the best way to maintain their focus. If they can engage and interact with what they are learning, they are better able to take in information.
You might need to explain your child’s strategy to teachers if they want to do these in class… but suggest that they try the following:
Make sure your child knows that distractions, talking in class or bad behaviour won’t be tolerated. Praise your child for good behaviour or positive achievements.
Some children spend a lot of time on social media. Even in 2012, 75% of children aged 10 and 91% of children aged 12 had a mobile phone. Limit their use and ensure they are not sneaking mobile phones or tablets into class, especially if school policy is against it.
Sometimes, an inability to concentrate is caused by a learning disability.
Children with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) can struggle to focus at school. If you suspect this could be the reason, talk to the SENCO (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator) at school, or your GP.
When children enjoy what they are doing, their focus and concentration is high and they take an active interest. Give your child plenty of opportunities to try new activities and expose them to different ways of working. Encourage them to set achievable goals to work towards.