Children born into the digital generation may sometimes struggle with attentiveness. The number of outside distractions is only increasing, as mobile phones, tablets, and televisions continue to become ever more present in the daily lives of the younger generations. While digital technologies can be quite helpful for learning, it is important for parents to model good focus skills. Beyond setting strict limits on screen time, there a various strategies to improve focus skills parents can try at home.
Below, you’ll find some general tips and strategies to help kids understand how to boost concentration and attentiveness.
5 Strategies to Improve Focus Skills:
1) Do what interests you. Encourage your child to identify activities that interest him and sustain his attention. Work with your child to help him find a good book about video games or skateboarding, or even encourage him writing his own stories about television characters. As your child gets older, continue to revisit this approach.This is particularly helpful if your child is interested in hands-on activities or technology. As he ages, your child will be able to engage in more complex games, construction projects, and other activities.
2) Follow the leader. Goal directed persistence is an important part of the focus thinking skill. Watch how your child interacts with his peers when outside of school. Suggest that your child pairs with peers who are self-starters and team-leaders. Working with peers in small groups can increase cooperation and allow your child to see not only how others work, but also what cues they follow to start a task. Your child may benefit from observing a child who is very self-motivated and an efficient “self-starter,” and learn about that child’s process of initiating a task.
3) Use recognition and reward. The best way to encourage your child to improve his capacity to focus on tasks is to provide him with immediate recognition for her accomplishment. Reward him for starting activities such as homework assignments, projects, and chores on his own. Age-appropriate rewards could include parental attention, time to play a new video game, or a special treat or privilege. Positive reinforcement helps to create a sense of motivation so that your child learns to start tasks on his own without procrastination.
4) Observe your child’s energy levels. Schedule homework or other difficult tasks requiring sustained focus during his peak energy. Take some time to chart your child’s energy levels and focusing capacities during the day. There are very distinctive variations in an individual’s biorhythms and energy levels. Recent neuroscience suggests that the concept of a “day person” and a “night owl,” may actually be biologically based. In addition, there are some individuals who wake up in the morning refreshed and others who require 30-60 minutes before they are truly awake and ready to go. Try to understand your own child’s body rhythms and work with him around these limitations for task completion.
5) Encourage short movement breaks. Stretching and breathing techniques can help increase your child’s focus. Take a five or ten minute exercise break that includes anything from doing jumping -jacks, push-ups, sit-ups. While at first you should determine your child’s breaks, your long-term goal is to allow your child to determine his own break needs. Your child should be able to demonstrate that he is using the break responsibly by returning to work focused and productive.