Proven Strategies to Help Your Child Focus in School


There are distractions everywhere – whether your child is in school or trying to get their homework done later on at night. From stress, anxieties, constant text messages, friends, TV, online and more – all of these multiple factors are competing for your child’s attention as they are trying to concentrate. With all of these stimuli at play, it’s no wonder that children today have trouble concentrating and really focusing at the one task at hand.

Concentration is a crucial skill to have. As much as people are applauded for multi-tasking, it’s been proven that people actually are not able to focus on multiple tasks and need to put their complete attention on one task in order to do it to the best of their ability. When someone is switching from homework, to TV, to texting, they are more likely to make errors and decrease their productivity incrementally.

Today’s demands at school require children to focus many hours of their day, and continues to  increase as they get well into high school, college and adulthood. And as adults, we know the concept of focus and attention to detail is critical in everything that we do. Whether it’s in our jobs, driving, cooking, taking care of our families or otherwise, being attentive and alert to the task at hand improves success, which ultimately helps us continue to grow and be happy.

As much as it may seem innate to us today as adults, concertation and focus is a learned skill. Children need to be given the foundational skills to succeed and most importantly, practice and strengthen these skills to improve over time. So, if you are concerned that child may have some focus issues, there are ways that you can help and support your child to improve their concentration.

Set Expectations

Help your child set expectations. Let them know that you expect them to really work on focus and concentration. Explain to them why it’s so important, how it can help them now and in the future. Help them develop a routine to get in the habit of concentration. For instance, let your child know that you expect them to work on homework from 3-4pm, or set a time limit for reading, etc.

Manage Distractions

Start with areas you can control – homework. “Since attentional issues almost always reach into many different domains of a child’s life, parents can help their child at home to create optimal homework conditions through finding an ideal work space and best time of day to do work, and through identifying their child’s internal conditions (related to mood, movement, hunger, etc.) that influence better or worse study habits, explains Dr. Matt Hersh a licensed clinical psychologist.

Help them to create the ideal space to do their homework in – do they need a quiet area? Should it be in their bedroom or an office area instead? Explain to them that music, TV, phones and computers are a NO for now unless it requires technology or you and your child learn together that their brain works well with some soothing background music (which certainly is the case for many children).

Break Down The Process

It can be completely overwhelming to have a huge list of tasks at hand. Think of it yourself – when you have a huge house to clean, it’s so much easier to distract yourself on Facebook then to figure out the best way to tackle the issue. Help your child tackle the issue by breaking down the steps. For example, it’s much easier to focus if you just need to focus on cleaning the living room, then after that, think about the bathroom, then next the kitchen and so on. Help your child do the same with their tasks so they can feel in control of how they are getting the work done and can easily concentrate on the task at hand without feeling like there is a mountain of work to get through.

Help Them Take Breaks

Doing homework for 4 hours straight is just simply not going to work. Figure out the best break schedule with your child. Is it 40 minutes “on” and then a 20 minute break or 30 minutes “on” and a 10 minute break or so forth. Every child is different, so you can play around with what works best and adjust as needed.

Get Involved and Collaborate With Teachers

Don’t feel like you need to go it alone! “Parents who approach these issues collaboratively with both teachers and their child are in the best position for achieving success, says Dr. Matt Hersh.” He suggests that parents can feel empowered by becoming an integral part of their children’s educational experience. He also advises parents to “email or talk in person with their child’s teacher(s) to directly assess what difficulties are observed that might be impacting classroom performance and behavior.”

Practice Mindfulness

The practice of mindfulness is growing in popularity throughout the world in both children and adults. Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present – paying attention to your body, your environment, your feelings, etc. People do this through meditation, but also just breathing, practicing yoga or reminding themselves to stay in the moment. The benefits of mindfulness have been proven to help children and adults manage stress and anxiety, improve focus and concentration, increase emotional regulation and self-control, improve memory, reduce depression, and improve happiness. To help your child with focus, you may want to incorporate mindfulness techniques into your family life or introduce them to your child.

Enforce Boundaries

Lastly, you are going to need to be on top of this for your child. Help them to practice. Remind them (a lot) about why they are doing it. And encourage them as you see them improve! As tough as it is to be a parent, you are doing an amazing job by enforcing the boundaries that you set up to help them grow into thoughtful adults.

Helping your child focus sounds overwhelming, but by putting a plan in place, it is easier then you think to get your child on a track to learn the skills for improving their concentration. And, if you do have concerns about greater issues such as ADHD or learning disabilities, certainly reach out to your child’s teacher or other local resources.

“Because difficulties focusing at school are often seen alongside a constellation of other challenges, like organizing, prioritizing, planning, regulating emotions, and other executive function abilities, it’s important for parents to be on the lookout for these related struggles,” says Dr. Matt Hersh. “Talking to teachers and the school counselor for recommendations for executive function skills coaching can be amazingly helpful.”

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Written by Phase2Parenting

PLEASE NOTE: The writers of this article are not medical professionals. The information in this column is not intended and should not be construed as providing medical or psychological advice, but rather to offer readers information and provide a perspective to better understand the lives of themselves and their children. Articles on this website may be opinion based. The articles are not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician, psychiatrist, psychotherapist or other licensed medical professional. If you do have health or safety concerns, please get in touch with a healthcare professional.