Teaching Children to Focus in the Age of Distraction
Modern parents concerned their children might be showing Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) symptoms are not alone in this observation. Many children nowadays cannot seem to hold their attention for longer than a few minutes at any given time, but their lack of focus may be more the symptom of the current technological age than a serious medical condition like ADD and ADHD.
Children and Technology
Since the invention of the smartphone in the early 2000s, teachers have noticed a dramatic uptick in students not paying attention in class. Even students themselves admit to being more distracted. A study conducted by the University of Nebraska Lincoln in 2015 revealed that 63% of students admit to checking their phone up to 10 times in a single class. Of those checks, 75% of the students wanted to check the time, 70% went onto open social media networks, and a whopping 87% took out their phone to text.
Once they get home, not only can their phones still easily distract them, they also have televisions, computers, video game systems, and tons of other electronic gadgets stealing away their focus. Combating all of these distractions can be a challenge, especially when you use a lot of those technologies as well. Take a look at the many ways to help your child focus naturally and get back their attention span in the age of distraction.
7 Tips for Teaching Your Child to Focus
- Start setting aside a reasonable amount of time for your children to practice focusing on a particular task.
Most children as young as four or five can concentrate anywhere between 5 and 20 minutes. They last longer on simpler, fun tasks and tap out sooner when working on challenging ones. Find something they enjoy doing, coloring, reading, etc., and make sure they focus on it for that set amount of time every day.
- Teach them the importance of doing one thing at a time.
Despite many professionals claiming supreme abilities to multitask, scientific research has made it clear that multitasking actually diminishes your work performance and reduces your ability to concentrate. Teach your children how to focus on one particular task at a time and how not get distracted or overwhelmed.
- Learn about and practice belly breathing.
Belly breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing, helps to slow down your heart rate and clear your mind so you can concentrate better. Teaching kids about belly breathing at a young age can help them learn to keep control of their emotions and anxieties and focus better when confronted with a difficult situation or task.
- Help them learn how to observe things in the moment.
Practicing mindfulness, or maintaining mental awareness in the present moment while acknowledging and accepting your thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations is a priceless skill to instill in your child from a young age. The younger they learn to control their mind and thoughts pattern, the greater their ability to focus the rest of their lives.
- Designate specific times and spaces for doing homework or other focus-heavy tasks.
Help your child create a ritual that triggers their brain to start focusing by setting up a specific time and place to do homework. Shut off all distractions, like TVs or telephones, and teach them to self-regulate if they do need to use the computer to look something up. You can install a parental monitoring program at first if you cannot be there to check on them.
- Learn how to incorporate planned breaks.
Kids can only concentrate for so long and work better when they can get up and do something different before returning to their task. Even adults need those few minutes to give their brain a rest. Teach them how recognized when their focus fades due to mental tire rather than simply being bored and how to schedule breaks to get it back.
- Teach them to break down a big task into more manageable, smaller chunks.
Kids and adults alike end up procrastinating when they feel overwhelmed by a big task. Learning how to break that big task down into smaller, more manageable chunks will keep them from feeling overwhelmed and focus more easily. It also helps them build up their confidence and self-esteem so they understand how to manage themselves and difficult tasks in the future.