Focus is a critical element of success in life. Without the ability to properly focus, most forms of work are more difficult, learning becomes problematic, and even social skills are harmed.
However, staying focused is more difficult than ever. Distractions provided by screens are piling up, and global attention spans are falling. It seems like children are fighting a losing battle in the quest to stay focused.
Luckily, there are solutions out there. You can introduce skills and techniques into your children's lives to help them build and maintain their focus. Read on to discover how!
Like anything you ask from someone, you shouldn't expect too much too soon. If your child is having trouble focusing, they won't be able to jump right into focusing for long periods of time, no matter how much help you provide. Instead, start out slow. See how long they can focus on a task. Then, work with them to increase this little by little.
The amount of time you can expect someone to focus also varies depending on the task. People are naturally more capable of focusing on something when that thing is interesting. Something uninteresting may hold their attention for 5 minutes, while something more interesting may hold it up to 20. Think about it, you would probably struggle to focus on a tedious task for an extended period of time, so you shouldn't expect better from your kids.
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When you focus on something, you should truly focus on it. Multitasking inherently splits focus between a few different things. Don't try to have your child do more than one thing at once. Doing so will actually hinder your child's ability to focus. In addition, multitasking has a negative impact on your mind's ability to work effectively.
During this period, give all your focus to a single activity. If your child is supposed to be working on homework, they shouldn't watch a TV show simultaneously. Even within that activity, don't switch things up too much. For example, if your child is working on their homework, have them completely finish one subject before moving on to the next one. This will allow them to tackle each subject with a fresh mind.
Dedicate Time in Your Schedule
Distractions are the death of focus. When we are distracted, we suffer from a phenomenon called "attention residue." This is where part of your ability to focus stays with the distraction, even after the distraction itself has passed. Because of this, a distraction will steal focus when it happens and continue to steal focus afterward.
One of the best ways to fight distractions is to specifically dedicate time to focusing. Set aside a period of time to work on whatever needs your child's attention. During that time, any form of media should be turned off, phones should be put away, and other family members should be altered so that they shouldn't bother the person who is trying to focus. If they have to use a screen for their work, ensure the screen time is positive.
In addition, avoid external stimulation as much as possible. Pick a quiet place to work where noise is unlikely to impact the person trying to focus. While they are working on something, don't have the TV on in the background, even if the volume is muted. Simply having other forms of stimulus running will sap away focus.
While doing this, make sure to schedule breaks every now and then. By scheduling breaks, your child won't feel tempted to simply stop working since they know they have a break coming up. In addition, the break gives them a moment to recharge mentally.
You can even design breaks to be productive. Playing energetic games with your child is enjoyable while providing them with some physical activity.
Related: Why Movement Matters for Your Kids
Make the Tasks More Manageable
Sometimes, the sheer magnitude of a task makes it hard to complete. Thinking about how much you have to do makes just getting started difficult. This builds stress and anxiety, damaging your ability to focus. Making the task more manageable will help make success more achievable.
The best way to do this is to break down large tasks into smaller ones. Then, treat each of the tasks as an independent entity. Suddenly, one impossible task turns into several easy ones.
For example, if your child has a lengthy paper to write, tell them to start by just drafting ideas. Then, work toward a rough draft. After that, they can write the actual paper. Finally, they can begin editing it. Depending on when the homework is due, they can even split all of this work up across multiple days.
Staying focused is difficult in a world filled with distractions and activities that reduce our attention span. This is true for most adults, so it is very difficult for children. Luckily, meditation has the potential to reverse some of the harmful effects created by modern society.
Mediation stresses the importance of being present at the moment. To do this, you must push out distractions and thoughts of the past and future. Once you have done this enough, this technique becomes easier to call upon.
This is a critical part of the reason meditation helps with focus. Being present in this way allows your child to focus on what they are doing. They aren't constantly considering what is coming next or what they could be doing instead. They simply focus on the moment and do what they need to do.
Plus meditation has other benefits as well. It can help quiet, restless minds and improve sleep quality before bedtime.
Related: How to Create Healthy Family Habits?
Helping Your Kids Focus
Finding ways to increase your children's ability to focus can help them in many aspects of life. Learning some of the skills and techniques listed above form positive habits they can call upon both now and in the future. This will make them more capable people overall.
Meditation is just one activity that can help your children learn to focus better. Check out our other Activities for Kids, Adults, and Families to get more ideas!