Focus & Attention
Helping our Children with Attention & Focus
One of the biggest obstacles in the classroom that many students face has to do with attention and focus. Children today are being brought up surrounded by technology and screens. Their lives are in constant motion whether it is an activity or playing/watching a screen. Their “down time” often includes their favorite Xbox game or tablet app. This is affecting their ability to pay attention in the classroom. Recent studies show that too much time spent in front of a screen may double the risk of attention problems in children. I have seen this over and over in our classes in Memorial and in my own life with my children. Diagnosed or not, students struggle with listening, following directions, staying quiet, and sitting still. So many children do not know how to sit quietly or to actually calm down unless they have an active screen in front of them. This is a skill that now must be taught. The demands of school are a lot more intense and draining then when many of us were in school. These demands, coupled with the level of technology students are exposed to, are creating problems with attention that many of us (parents) did not have to deal with when we were going up.
The following are some activities and recommendations that may help our children with their attention & focus.
Insist on a regular bedtime and adequate rest. Insufficient sleep can cause attention problems.
Eliminate caffeine from your child’s diet.
No more than 1 ½ hours of screen time per day.
Avoid watching a screen right before bed. Instead create a “buffer” time to lower activity level for an hour or so before bedtime. Find quiet activities like coloring, reading, playing quietly. Right before bed spend 10 minutes cuddling with your child. This helps to create a sense of love and security as well as a time to calm down (it is also a great time to “get into your child’s head” and find out what is happening in their lives).
Puzzles, memory games, and board games are great tools to help with attention and social skills.
Turn off the TV when no one is watching it. It you need to have background noise classical music is a great “filler” without being distracting.
Listening to books on tape/CD can enhance listening, attention, and reading skills.
Encourage physical activity. Children need to run around and spend their energy. Find an activity they enjoy- basketball, riding bikes, playing at the park - anything that gets them moving.
Teach them to calm down with deep breathing (think yoga). It may sound crazy but it is a way to center yourself and relax your body. One easy way to do this is tell your child to take in a deep calm breath through your nose like you're sniffing a flower then let it out through your mouth like you're blowing out birthday candles. This is a great skill to use at any age. This is also a great technique to use with anger management