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How can I get my child to focus?
Focusing is a topic that comes up often when I’m talking to parents about their parenting concerns. They say that their children have no issue focusing when it’s on something the likes, such as the ipad or TV. The problem is when they’re not excited about the topic at hand and feeling bored.
I’m thinking mostly as a result of our ability to easily flit between one screen and another, we don’t allow ourselves to be bored for more than a few seconds at a time. Our children are no different.
When they get to high school and mostly have cell phones on their desks at all times, for example, they really don’t need to feel bored. The minute their mind wanders because the unit is not especially interesting, they turn to their phones for entertainment.
When I grew up, we turned to our peers at the table alongside us or wrote notes and passed them on until the teacher spotted what we were doing and confiscated the note, to our embarrassment.
So, of course we were distracted and lost focus too, but I’m thinking likely not as quickly as what parents are seeing today.
The trick perhaps is to be mindful of not introducing technology to young children too soon, and when you do, to make sure that they are not entertained for hours on end by fast flickering screens. Also, it may be a good idea to gradually help them develop longer attention spans by exposing them to an activity for longer periods over time.
Another idea is to ensure that your child takes breaks according to what is reasonable for his or her age. So, for example, a four year old may not be able to focus on any one activity for more than a half hour. So, take a break – even for five minutes – before going back to what you were doing.
The bottom line is to understand what a reasonable expectation regarding focusing is at any given age or stage of development and then to help your child develop an increased tolerance for not being entertained every minute of the day.
Sara Dimerman is a psychologist in the Toronto area who has provided counselling to individuals, couples and families for more than twenty-five years. She is the author of four books – two for parents and two for couples – the most recent of which is “Why Married Couples Don’t have Sex….at least not with each other!” and is a columnist and podcast producer/host for sites and print media across North America and internationally. She is a regular guest on radio and television and is interviewed frequently for articles online, in newspapers and magazines. Sara is married and has two daughters. Visit Sara‘s website: www.helpmesara.com or follow her on Twitter @helpmesara.