How can I Help my Child Concentrate at School?

When children enjoy what they are doing their focus and concentration is high and they become eager to learn. To help your child, give them plenty of opportunities to try new activities and expose them to different ways of working

Toes wiggling to aid concentrationAn adult’s attention span is only twenty minutes long. Even then, most of us must learn tricks along the way, so we can focus our concentration for longer. For teenagers and school children things are even harder! This guide will help you to help your child concentrate at school.

If your child can’t concentrate, it is often a symptom of another problem. For example, are they having trouble concentrating because they are too tired? You can help by ensuring that your child has had an adequate night’s sleep; has a nutritious, healthy diet and by helping them to be stress-free and eager to learn.

How does sleep affect a child’s concentration?

Tiredness accounts for a lot of problems and a lack of sleep can affect a child’s concentration. It’s a bad idea to drive if you haven’t had enough sleep, so make sure that your child doesn’t drive their brain without rest, either. Sleep helps with brain function, memory and concentration – all essential for learning.

Some sleep facts:

  • Two-thirds of children suffer sleep-deprivation
  • Sleep Council research suggests that around 30% of 12-16 year olds get only 4-7 hours’ sleep per night
  • 70% play video games at night
  • 23% fall asleep with TVs, music or other technology still switched on, more than once a week
  • The light from screens is said to interfere with the body’s sleep patterns

With these facts in mind, do try to limit technology usage before bed.

How does exercise affect a child’s concentration?

Almost as much as sleep, exercise also affects a child’s concentration. Exercise helps to keep the brain healthy and active. Getting oxygen into the lungs, through the bloodstream and feeding the brain, helps memory and understanding – vital for the school day!

How do diet and nutrition affect a child’s concentration?

We all know that diet and nutrition are vital for good health, but do they also affect a child’s concentration? Well, yes they do. Children need a healthy, nutritious and well-balanced diet. This provides essential fuel for the brain to function. Fruit, vegetables, complex carbohydrates, vitamin and mineral-laden protein foods like oily fish are valuable.

Eating a heavy meal requires more energy to be directed to the stomach for digestion. This steals brain fuel, which can lead to afternoon sluggishness. So, eating light, regular meals is best.

Sometimes, a food sensitivity can lead to ‘fuzzy’ thinking, tiredness, or affect Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Notice if common foods affect your child’s ability to concentrate. Food additives, or even commonplace items like bread and sugar, can affect concentration. And, since our bodies are 60% water, your child needs to drink plenty of fluid. You’d be surprised how much this will aid their concentration.

How does stress affect a child’s concentration?

Stress, caused by upsets and changes in circumstances; problems at home, at school, or with friends, can all affect a child’s concentration and cause them to lose focus in class. If they are anxious, their ‘fight, flight, or freeze’ instincts set in – and learning becomes impossible. They can’t retain information.

Sometimes low self-esteem can cause children to feel anxious. If a child feels they can’t do something, they may either panic – which makes learning impossible – or lose interest. Your child might be going through something you don’t know about. Encourage them to talk to you about any problems. Try to establish a positive relationship with their teacher/s. Schoolwork could cause them stress, too, making it hard to concentrate.

Does schoolwork affect a child’s concentration?

If a child cannot concentrate at school, the work they are being given could be to blame. Is their schoolwork too hard for them? Or too easy? Either of these can have a negative effect on children’s concentration levels.

Children often become distracted…

  • …if they aren’t interested in what they are learning
  • …if they can’t understand it
  • …if they’re bored and don’t find it challenging enough
  • …if the teacher’s methods do not suit their learning styles

Talk to your child / teachers about any areas they’re having difficulty with. If they find the work too easy, speak to the teacher about setting them more challenging work.

How does a child’s mindset affect their ability to concentrate?

Your child’s beliefs affect the way they learn, how they perceive their own intelligence, how resilient they are to failure and their ability to concentrate. Some children have a ‘fixed mindset’ – believing that their intelligence level is fixed and cannot be changed. They may think themselves ‘bad at maths,’ or ‘just average’ or ‘not clever’. Such beliefs block progress. Help your child to develop a ‘growth mindset’. Intelligence grows with practice. Teach children that through determination and hard work they can achieve anything.

How can I find the best way to maintain my child’s focus?

If your child struggles to concentrate then you need to find the best way to maintain their focus. If they can engage and interact with what they are learning, they are better able to take in information. You might need to explain your child’s strategy to teachers if they want to do these in class… but suggest that they try the following:

  • Make notes - Writing things down as key words, or later, making flashcards or revision-cards, will help them to remember information
  • Draw - Doodling can help some people to concentrate – especially if they are visual learners (who like to see pictures) or kinaesthetic learners (who like to do things, or move). Or they might draw diagrams. It helps to visualise and make things memorable
  • Ask questions - They don’t need to interrupt the teacher aloud. They could jot down questions to ponder, for themselves. Or to research later, or ask someone
  • Lists - Listing tasks or items to remember can help focus. Ticking off tasks achieved can motivate them, too
  • Outline - Writing an outline helps to structure concepts into headline sections, for details to be added. Grouping together information makes it easier to remember

How can I get my child to ignore distractions?

Taking notes in class to aid concentration

Distractions are the bane of a child’s education, so how can you get your child to ignore them? Firstly, make sure your child knows that distractions, talking in class or bad behaviour won’t be tolerated. Praise your child for good behaviour or positive achievements.

Some children spend a lot of time on social media. Even in 2012, 75% of children aged 10 and 91% of children aged 12 had a mobile phone. Limit their use and ensure they are not sneaking mobile phones or tablets into class, especially if school policy is against it.

Does my child have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?

Sometimes, an inability to concentrate is caused by a learning disability. Children with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) can struggle to focus at school. If you suspect this could be the reason your child can’t concentrate, talk to the SENCO (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator) at school, or to your GP.

So, how can you help your child to concentrate at school? When children enjoy what they are doing, their focus and concentration is high and they take an active interest. Give your child plenty of opportunities to try new activities and expose them to different ways of working. Most of all, encourage them to set achievable goals to work towards.

Is there anything about education you’ve always wanted to know but never got round to finding out? If so, then the Knowledge Bank is the place for you! We’ve got dozens of articles which aim to answer parents’ questions. Perhaps you’d like to know about the Early Years Foundation Stage, or the cost of going to university – we have all the info you need. We also have a selection of articles full of advice and tips for raising happy and safe children. The answers you need could be just one click away!

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