Focused attention is one of the main concerns parents of young and tween children have been expressing to educators. While absenteeism has risen during the 2020-2021 school year, the students who are present in class may still be struggling to be present. Are they attending to and retaining the lessons being taught virtually? Here are some signs parents can look for that shows a child may be struggling to pay attention in class:
- Fail to give close attention to details
- Not following through in tasks
- Difficulty organizing tasks and activities
- Blurting out an answer before a question is completed
- Difficulty waiting their turn
- Wiggly, fidgeting/squirming
- Leaving their seat
- Lose belongings
- Being forgetful
The best way to support a child when you see these signs is to look at the cause of the behavior. If it’s hard for your child to listen, understand, and follow through with an activity, let’s ask: are these symptoms of inattention an imbalance, or is the task just not interesting to them in the way they’re doing it? What distractions may be impeding their attention, and perhaps most importantly, why should they complete this task?
Incentives can make a world of difference in how engaged your child is in a task at hand, and what they are able to accomplish. Here are some changes you can make to your child’s day that will set them up for success.
Give kids breaks throughout the day.
Just like a regular school day, breaks should be part of a regular schedule, and be a true mental rest. A healthy break should involve changing the physical space from where they work to where they rest. Encourage them to involve movement such as stretching, walking, taking a quick bike ride, or jumping on a mini trampoline.
Want some variety to choose from to make breaks dynamic? Students can follow along with these group videos.
Implement a sticker system
This is especially helpful for younger children (10 and under) to support follow-through. With a simple DIY poster or chart, your child can earn a set amount of stickers or tokens for each task as they complete it. When they’ve earned them all, they get a reward (e.g. break, toy, game). The great thing about this motivator is that it can be tailored exactly to your child’s interests. The “tokens” they earn can be nearly anything they like: pictures of their favorite character, food, sport ball–the options are endless.
For older students and teens, a more mature version of this that still packs a punch would be to list out the responsibilities they have ahead of them for the day so that they can see it and check it off as they go. Write what they will earn on the list when they are finished.
Talk with your child’s teacher about what your child liked in the classroom–it may be something you don’t have at home! If possible, try coordinating breaks or lunches with neighbors. Why take breaks alone when peers in the neighborhood may be looking for someone to have “recess” with as well?
Keep in mind that what may work one day may not work the next. It’s important to keep a robust toolbox to choose from when motivating attention. It’s normal for a child to find something motivating at one point and then lose interest in it later. The most parents can do is set kids up for success.