4 Ways to Help Your Child Improve Focus & Concentration
A couple of weeks ago, I asked parents what the biggest issue their child was struggling with. Almost everyone said focus and concentration. With that said, I thought I would take this opportunity to share my thoughts with you on ways to help you re-frame your thoughts surrounding focus and ways you can help your child focus.
As a parent with a child who struggles with ADHD, as well as, being an undiagnosed adult myself, I understand what it means to be highly distractible. Even as I write this I have 8 windows open on my screen and my cell phone by my side. We often seem to think that being focused on one thing at a time is highly important to productivity. As I believe there is some truth to that, my mind doesn’t work like that, and nor does your child’s. Those with ADHD have rapid moving thoughts, often they need to move from topic to topic to allow their brain to capture the right thought at the right time. Think about your child’s brain like this; a 4 way stop with a constant flow of traffic barreling through the intersection with only a given thought having a brief stop at the front of the intersection. Often that is the thought of the moment we can catch before the traffic begins to flow again.
You would think that this system would cause chaos and I would miss deadlines, when in fact that is not always the case. I can juggle multiple tasks and deadlines all at the same time.
Secondly, we need to ask ourselves, “why can my child hyper focus on various activities and topics, but not others?” The answer is passion and interest. When we are asked to do a task that our mind, body, and soul has zero to no interest in this causes the system to be taxed. It takes extra energy to stay on topic and not let our minds wonder. Whereas, when presented with a topic that we are fully engaged in, those we ADHD can focus intensely for hours blocking out all other distractions.
When we are working with our children we need to be detectives and observe their behavior when they are focused on activities they enjoy. What are they doing? Are they moving while doing this activity? How long are they engaged? Where are they doing this activity? What is their current mood? What was their mood towards this activity before they began?
One of the other myths we seem to have surrounding focus is that it a stationary event, as though we are chained to the task; being unable to move or break from it until we are done. I challenge you to rethink this myth. Those with ADHD are the creative movers and shakers of this world. We need to move to think. I often get up multiple times while I am working on something. I use the bathroom, flip laundry, grab a snack, refill my coffee, tap my feet, hum a tune, and more. There is nothing wrong with this. These “breaks” allow my brain to finish processing a thought, as well as reenergize my mind and body so I can continue. Just as much when I am in the “zone” I can work for hours without stopping to eat, drink, or anything else.
“It is not as important how the tasks are completed, but the are done so with effort, care, & punctionality.”
WAYS TO HELP YOUR CHILD
One of the most profound ways to help your child learn to harness their focusing powers to understand how their bodies and brains work.
- Give them more time to process their thoughts. As in my earlier example of the traffic flying through the intersection, ADHD can affect your child’s processing speeds. As an adult, I have the experience to better control the flow of my brain thought traffic, making it easier for me to recall thoughts and better focus on a thought I need for a given situation. However, this takes time to develop. In younger children it takes them more effort to try to slow down their traffic and pull the thought they need. Therefore, be patient.
- Allow for downtime. Like I previously stated. It can take more energy to try to slow the flow of traffic as well as force your brain and body to focus on something it doesn’t want to. That energy consumption can wear us out faster and therefore we need some down time to recover. This is especially true if you have a child who struggles with ADHD and SPD who needs to seek sensory input to better function.
- Provide more Movement. Once again, those with ADHD often need to move to think. This works because that movement helps put their brain into rhythm. Because their brains move so quickly, the tapping, the humming, the spinning, fidgeting, or what have you provides a beat for the brain to follow along too. You can provide more movement options by using rocking/swiveling chairs, fidget bands, music, or whatever works for your child.
- Make Concepts and Content more relatable. Most schools teach concepts out of context, making them more confusing and less interesting. Help bring those concepts to life for your child by making the content more relatable to your child’s passions and interests. This can be done by drawing from examples in TV shows, books, or video games. The other part to this option is to make the content more hands on using manipulatives such as drawing it out, using figures or toys, making it into a game, etc. It’s easier to get kids on board when its more fun.
Well there you have it. Some new thinking about focus and 4 ways to help your child improve their focus and concentration. If you have ways that you help your child, please put them in the comments below. Let's all learn from each others. Until next time...I wish you happy days.