How to Improve a Child’s Focus at School

When a child is having trouble staying on task at school there are a number of possible reasons why this could be happening. Some children have physiological problems such as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) while others are experiencing some form of stress related anxieties. Others yet are simply bored with the work and are looking for something to challenge their active and fertile imaginations. There are so many reasons why a child may be having difficulty concentrating that the first thing any parent or teacher should do would be to try to analyze what is really going on. The best way to learn how to improve a child’s focus at school is to get to the root of the problem.

Understanding ADD and ADHD

If you have ever had a child diagnosed with ADD or ADHD then you know that medication is not your only resource. Altogether too often parents get a diagnosis, fill the prescriptions the doctor ordered and simply expect the child to miraculously be ‘cured.’ It isn’t always that cut and dry. Even children taking medications for ADD and ADHD will continue to have problems focusing at school but will perhaps be able to sit still for longer periods of time. Being able to sit still and being able to focus are two entirely different things! For this very reason, many parents opt to try more natural and holistic approaches to attention deficit and/or hyperactivity.

Recent Scientific Findings

There has been a significant amount of research in recent years that has put to rest the theory that we are all born with a certain amount of brain function and that this is what we’ll always be either blessed or plagued with. Scientists formerly believed that we were born with all the brain cells we were ever going to have and there was no way to modify or improve their function. It was previously held that the human brain did not change after infancy. Now it has been found that the brain is actually quite malleable and we can literally remap the cognitive functions within it. Understanding this can significantly alter the way we look at how to improve a child’s focus at school.

To Medicate or Not to Medicate

This is one of the most difficult decisions that any parent of a child with an accurate diagnosis of ADD/ADHD will ever need to make. Please notice that the operative word here is ‘accurate.’ All too often our children get summarily diagnosed with those two disorders when there is really something else going on. However, assuming that the diagnosis is accurate, that still leaves us with the dilemma of whether or not to medicate them as the treatment of choice. While some parents are strong opponents of using pharmaceuticals, others are just as strongly in favor of medications. As is evidenced by the fact that science is continuously discovering more and more about how the brain functions, we should never be too hasty in judging other parents for the choices they make. Loving parents want what is best for their children and they make decisions based on their particular belief systems and personal experiences.

Getting Down to the ‘Nitty Gritty’

The problem is, you cannot possibly hope to learn how to improve a child’s focus at school until you know what is going on with that particular child. Many children literally bounce off the walls and are instantly labeled as ADD or ADHD. Before jumping to that conclusion there are a number of things you can do as a parent to get to the route of the problem. The first thing you should do before rushing off to the doctor is to do a ‘food elimination diet’ to eliminate certain foods or groups of foods to which your child could be allergic or have a sensitivity to. Of course we all know that the worst culprits are foods and beverages containing high amounts of sugar, but your child could be allergic to wheat or corn or peanuts or any number of other foods and/or food groups. It is a lengthy process and can take several months to properly assess your child’s behavior when foods are eliminated from his or her diet, but many parents have met with a great deal of success with this method. Sometimes improving mental focus is as simple as eating a well-balanced diet devoid of foods your child is allergic or sensitive to.

Psychological and Emotional Stressors

Oftentimes there are psychological or emotional stressors that are the ultimate cause of a child’s inability to focus. Once you have gone through the food elimination diet and have identified any foods which seem to trigger a child’s lack of focus or inability to sit still, you may still be noticing the same behaviors even if lessened to some degree. Depending on the age of the child, there are certain ways you can help your child to talk about what is going on in his or her life. Little children react to tension in the family so it is up to you as a parent to reduce the amount of stress at home. Older children fall prey to peer pressure and there could be something going on that you aren’t aware of. If you cannot draw your child out to talk about where their mind is going for sanctuary, seek professional help. You would be amazed at how counseling can reduce some of the stress which enables your child to focus on the task at hand rather than going off somewhere in his/her mind to escape the stressors.

Play Therapy

There are a number of games you can play with your child to improve focus, memory and cognitive functions. When trying to find a way how to improve a child’s focus at school, start by helping him/her to focus at home! As mentioned, the brain is truly malleable which means that you can play ‘memory games’ with your child to improve concentration. Make it fun and exciting and your child will literally play for hours on end. Lay out a series of objects and have your child memorize the sequence. Cover them up and time how long it takes for your child to recall the order in which they were laid out. Over time, the neurons in the brain will map out a new path and it will become easier for your child to focus both at home and at school as well. There are many other fun games like this and you will find that there is a significant amount of research which substantiates that you really can re-train the brain to focus.

As you can see, there really isn’t a pat answer to the question of how to improve a child’s focus at school. There are so many reasons why your child could be having difficulty staying on task that it may take some amount of time, effort and a great deal of patience before you get to the root of the problem. It may be something as easy to remedy as a food allergy and it may be something as complex as some deep seated emotional issues. However, once you find the underlying cause you have a foundation upon which to build. You can learn how to improve a child’s focus at school if you first understand why he or she is having problems in the first place.

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