A common complaint of parents and teachers today is that students will just not stay focused. It seems that more and more students are displaying some sort of attention deficit. This is evident in the increase in ADD and ADHD diagnoses over the past decade. Many students that do not have a diagnosed condition such as ADD or ADHD, often struggle with paying attention and completing assignments. Although focusing difficulties can be very frustrating for everyone involved, there are strategies that can help students to learn to improve their focus.
The first step is to set realistic expectations for your child. A normal attention span for a child is three to five minutes for each year of their age. For example, if your child is ten years old, they should be able to focus on a task for 30-50 minutes. If your child exhibits focusing challenges, measure how long he can focus on an average task, such as reading. Use this as a starting point and set goals for incrementally increasing the time that your child can focus. If you determine that he can focus for 20 minutes, set a goal of 22 minutes and use a timer to help your child stay on task until the timer goes off. Slowly increase the time on the timer until your child can focus for an age appropriate amount of time. Celebrate when your child reaches each short-term goal and reward the effort he puts forth to stay on task.
Another essential component for helping a child stay on task is having an environment that promotes focusing. Although each child is unique, there are certain characteristics that will help keep your child focused when working on homework or other tasks. The environment should be as quiet as possible, away from TV, music, noisy kids, etc. Ideally, the student should be at a well-lit desk with only the things needed to perform the task. Having additional items around will only invite distraction and keep him from focusing. Older students should put their cell phone on silent while working on homework to avoid constant distractions from texts and calls.
Discuss with your child the importance of keeping focused. When they understand and agree with the reasons for maintaining focus, they will be more motivated to put effort into staying on task. Some of the benefits of staying on task are: academic success, completing work more quickly, getting more accomplished, understanding material better, and gaining maturity.
Learning to focus is an important skill to develop for success in life. With help and support, all students can make small changes that will lead to improved focusing skills that will help them in and out of the classroom. Make it a priority, be consistent and you will help your child gain a lifelong skill.