How to Help Increase Your Child’s Ability to Be Attentive
While there are real medical conditions that make it difficult for affected kids to pay attention in the same way as their peers, such as Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, it's also not always easy for the average child to be as attentive as he should. Because preschool-aged children that are capable of focusing their attention on a given task for an extended amount of time are up to 50% more likely to attend and graduate from college than their peers according to a study from Oregon State University, it's becoming increasingly important to help kids learn to apply themselves. Though helping a scattered child learn to sit still and listen quietly may feel akin to Sisyphus's never-ending task, there are things you can do to help your little one improve his attention span.
Establish a Routine
When kids know that they're supposed to spend at least 30 minutes after they get home from school working on their homework, school projects or studying, they're less likely to be distracted by all of the things that they'd rather be doing than if studying and homework is a slapdash ordeal completed whenever the fancy strikes. Make sure that your child knows when he's expected to be still and quiet, that there's help available if he truly needs it, and that he'll be able to do the things he likes when all of his responsibilities are handled properly.
Provide a Space Conducive to Concentration
While you may have mastered the art of finishing a work email, having a phone conversation with your mother and cooking dinner simultaneously, kids' needs are a bit different. In order to devote his undivided attention to the task at hand, a child will need a space that's clean and clear of distractions in order for it to be conducive to study and concentration. Clearing televisions, computers and other distractions out of the room may be helpful, as well as making sure that siblings aren't posing a distraction.
Talk to His Teacher
If your child's teachers and school administrators claim that he's having concentration and attention span issues that you're simply not seeing at home, it may be time for a more in-depth conversation with both your child and his teacher. Figuring out the root of the problem at school when he seems to have no such difficulties at home can make all of the difference in the quality of his education and his academic performance as a whole. Be sure that you carefully observe your child at home before coming to any conclusions regarding the teachers' assessments, though. Remember, it's much easier for a relative stranger to spot your child's shortcomings and areas in which improvement is needed than it is for you, since it's not so easy to be objective when you care so much for someone. In the end, though, you're doing your child no favors by refusing to acknowledge an area in which he needs help simply because you're loath to admit the fact that he's struggling.
Consult His Pediatrician
Should all of your attempts to foster an increased attention span come to naught, it may be time to discuss the matter with your child's pediatrician. She'll be able to help you uncover any underlying cause of a reduced attention span, or to refer you to a specialist that's better equipped to get to the bottom of the issue. Before you call in the experts, however, take a look at your child's daily lifestyle. If he's not getting enough rest at night because he's not sleeping well or because you've recently extended his bedtime, exhaustion and lethargy will make it difficult for him to pay attention the next day in school. If he's rushing out the door without a proper breakfast, mid-morning hunger might be one of the culprits behind his inability to concentrate. If you've eliminated sleep deprivation and all other environmental factors, then the time to discuss treatment and the potential use of chemical intervention may have arrived.
Keep in mind that kids just naturally have shorter attention spans than their adult counterparts, and don't take drastic measures if your child's caregivers and teachers insist that his falls within the normal range for his age. The side effects of chemical treatment can be unpleasant, and may simply not be worth it if your child's symptoms can be controlled another way.
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