Written by: Toni Foot
Many children struggle to concentrate on a tedious piece of homework or would rather gaze out over the school fields than listen to the gems of knowledge a teacher is desperately trying to share with them. Most children manage to maintain concentration for most of their time at school, but some have real difficulty doing so.
Such a lack of concentration can often lead to the child achieving below expectation, or to the child misbehaving and consequently getting in trouble. As a parent you may feel that there is little you can do to help your child whilst they are at school, but there are some very simple ways to help them from home.
What can you to help your child to concentrate?
- Send fresh drinking water with them. Good hydration improves brain function and has numerous other health benefits. Most schools encourage children to sip water throughout lessons as these benefits are generally well known. Don’t be tempted to send fizzy, sugary or ‘energy’ drinks for this though as these cause short-term bursts of energy that can make focus difficult, followed by feelings of excess tiredness when they wear off.
- Make sure they eat breakfast. Many children don’t want to eat much, or are in such a rush to get to school on time that they skip the most important meal of the day. They need the energy at the start of their day to make it to lunch without becoming distracted by hunger and lethargy. Also make sure that they are getting good, healthy food rather than just sugary empty calories that burn off too quickly.
- Consider improving their diet at home. If they eat lots of highly processed foods, or those low in nutritional value, they may not be getting all the vitamins and minerals they need to function at their optimum level. Make sure they get plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, and meat (or protein). Although a treat can be a marvellous thing, avoid giving children too many foods high in sugar or artificial sweeteners, saturated fats, colours or flavourings.
- Encourage activities outside of school. Children can feel like they get very little time to have fun and do what they want to do, especially if they get a high volume of homework or are under pressure as they approach assessments and exams. Having time dedicated to doing fun activities can make it easier to concentrate when it is time to work again.
- Get active. Exercise really helps the body to be more alert and improve brain function so try to get them moving every day. Perhaps try riding a bicycle to school rather than taking the car.
- Praise achievements. Rewarding a child for work well done always works better than punishing poor effort. Take time to look at work they are proud of and show them that you recognise the effort they have put into it, even if it isn’t perfect. Rewards do not have to be physical (like sweets or money) as kind words and smiles are often most effective.
- Get involved. Help them with their homework and talk about what they are doing at school so that they can see you are interested and have made time for them. This can be difficult with older children or if you have a large family, but even just having dedicated ‘homework time’ when they know they all need to focus for a period of time before relaxing can help them to concentrate as they know what is expected of them.