In this new era of “work from home”, there are a variety of reasons young people may experience difficulty focusing. With the upheaval in daily routines, a lack of focus can be exacerbated. However, there are ways to mitigate focus issues, whether students have diagnosed learning differences like ADHD or not. According to Healthline, there are five factors that adversely affect focus: poor sleep, increased stress, overstimulation, poor nutrition, and increased screen time.
As a parent or an educator at this time, it is essential to design habits, routines, and systems to help students perform at their best. Using the tips below, you can help your student maintain their focus and support them during this new normal of working at home.
One of the most important steps to supporting your students is to show your students that you are in their corner. Empathize with them during this time. Ask them questions. You may bring up what it is like for you to work in a new environment. The more they see your thought process, your struggles, the more help you can provide. Help them feel understood, and then invite them to help you come up with a solution. Here are a few things we recommend:
- Set up routines and expectations for the day
- Help them be mindful of the time with a visual timer
- Have all materials within reach
- Incorporate short breaks often
- Break big projects into smaller tasks
- Give brief, clear instructions
- Check items off a master-list (or make it more fun with stickers)
- Create lists, lists and more lists
Inevitably, your child will lose focus. Point out the behavior and guide by asking him or her to take a moment or two to refocus. Here are a few suggestions:
- “For the next minute, we are going to sit quietly and think about restarting the assignment.”
- “You are halfway through your assignment, and it looks like we need to spend more time on this.”
- “How about you grab a snack or some water? When you get back, we can start fresh.”
After they have taken the time to acknowledge their distraction, give them short instructions and expectations to complete the assignment. Something as simple as, “I think this could be finished in the next fifteen minutes. What do you think?” can work wonders. The key is to establish clear time frames, using visual timers as reinforcements. By helping students remain aware of time, we can make sure they use it wisely.
Always stay calm and encouraging! This is a tough time for all of us. Try saying something like this: “Great. Let’s set the timer. I am excited to see how well this turns out!” Often, they are not trying to misbehave. It can feel overwhelming and isolating when they receive feedback that they are not progressing on their tasks. So, make sure your feedback and redirects are positive in nature and aware of progress. Is Angela Duckworth, author of Grit, reminds us, the key to building a growth mindset is twofold:
- Recognize effort or natural ability
- Use the word ‘yet’ to keep your language positive and growth centered.
These times of uncertainty create opportunities for practice. Your students are building and strengthening executive functioning skills every day, whether they are in the classroom or at home. With guidance, they are preparing to become young people that can redirect their thoughts and successfully complete things on their own. Since children are not born with these skills, the adults in their lives create environments to practice. We hope this advice helps you support your students. For more information on finding a one-on-one academic coach for your child, please visit our services page.