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Parent Guide: How to Improve Focus in Kids

father consoling son in kitchen trying how to improve focus in kids

The pandemic has had a major impact on parents and families. For some parents, lockdowns meant quickly adapting to working from home. School closures left many children in at-home virtual learning environments for weeks or even months. Having the kids at home might have given you fresh insight into their behavior – including worrying signs of focus issues.

The ability to sustain attention is vital for children and adolescents because it helps them learn, develop new skills, and stay motivated. Understanding how to improve focus in kids can be crucial for their attention, and thus, keeping their academic and social skills on track.

Signs of Focus Issues in Kids

Like adults, children also experience a range of emotions. They can experience fears and worries, have trouble focusing, feel bored or upset, or display disruptive behaviors. While those feelings and behaviors can be perfectly normal, it can be challenging to differentiate between bad behavior and a larger issue.

If your kids are struggling to concentrate on a given task, it can be helpful to monitor their behavior to identify possible areas to address.

Here are some signs that may indicate your child may be having problems focusing in school:

  • Receiving low grades
  • Missing classes
  • Failing to do their homework
  • Not following the lessons
  • Forgetting the teacher’s instructions
  • Inability to sit still
  • Constantly losing things or lacking organization

Some kids may have difficulties in their relationships with family or friends. Common signs of these issues include:

  • Difficulty making or keeping friends
  • Irritability, bad mood, or bad behavior
  • Ignoring others when spoken to directly
  • Forgetting daily activities, chores, and appointments
  • Having a hard time keeping up in conversations
  • Acting impatiently or not taking turns
  • Appearing distracted or spending a lot of time daydreaming

How to Improve Focus in Kids

Focus is both where your child chooses to concentrate, or the focal point of their attention, as well as the act, or intention, of choosing where to direct their attention. Being able to concentrate on something for a period of time while tuning out other things requires focus. Concentration and focus are important factors to your child’s ability to pay attention, or how well they direct their conscious mind to incoming information.

There are several actions you can take to improve your kid’s focus and attention.

Limit Disrupting Factors

Watch out for these other factors that may temporarily disrupt attention, or influence focus long-term in kids:

  • Daily stressors like fighting with a friend, or excitement over an important event
  • Stressful changes like a death in the family, moving homes, parents’ separation, or the sudden shift to distance learning
  • Lifestyle factors such as lack of sleep – when kids are sleep-deprived, they can have trouble with memory, learning, and concentrating. Maternal drug, alcohol, or tobacco use during pregnancy and premature birth are other risk factors.
  • Brain or head injury like concussions that can occur from sports, falling, fighting, or other accidents
  • Genetic factors such as a family history of attention disorders and other genetic factors that can contribute to behaviors relating to focus, working memory, and/or long-term memory

Develop Healthy Habits

Eating a balanced diet, getting physical exercise, and ensuring your children get the recommended amount of sleep per age group may ease your child’s concentration problems.

Limit Screen Time

Screen exposure can reduce children’s attention span and psychological well-being. Preschoolers and adolescents spending more time per day in front of a screen have more behavioral problems and reports of aggressive behavior. Specifically social media can have negative effects on children.

Reduce Distractions

If you want your child to focus on a specific task, eliminate distractions that might get in the way of achieving this goal. Help your child concentrate by creating a quiet space in the house where they can study and do their homework. Turn off all devices, and keep their toys away from this area. If possible, avoid interruptions by siblings or pets.

Take a Break

When kids spend too much time doing the same thing, they can feel mentally exhausted. It’s important to take regular breaks to clear the mind and return to the task with fresh energy.

Divide Large Tasks into Smaller Units

It may be easier for your child to overcome a challenge or complete a school assignment if you break it into smaller milestones. Instead of asking them to clean their entire room, you could ask them to make their beds. Then later, ask them to put away their clothes or toys. Accomplishing these smaller tasks can boost their confidence and give you an opportunity to congratulate them on a job well done several times throughout the process.

Meditate Together

Mindfulness or meditation can relieve stress and anxiety and improve focus. How? It involves maintaining consciousness of the present moment. One study showed that adolescents who meditated daily over 1-2 years experienced improvements in attention and focus.

One easy way to practice mindfulness with your children is to ask them to sit with you and focus on their breathing. Whenever the mind begins to wander, just gently bring focus back to the breath.

Be Supportive

When parents show emotional support, kids are more likely to explore their environment and show interest in tasks. They also tend to feel more confident and motivated and may improve their overall concentration.

Talk about Emotions

As a parent, it’s important to offer your children support and care. This may involve talking about the feelings and struggles that your child is experiencing and doing your best to understand why they are behaving in a certain way. You can also let your kids know that it is normal to experience frustration, inattention, and even sadness from time to time.

Next Steps For Improving Focus In Kids

Now you know some strategies for how to improve focus in kids. Luckily, many of them are simple things you can do. Feel free to personalize these tips for how to improve focus in kids – try what makes the most sense for your family.

However, if your child’s focusing issues persistently interfere with their school, home life, or play activities, it may be time to seek medical help. Your healthcare provider can help you explore appropriate treatment options for your child.

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