Many children and adults have this issue. We often find ourselves involved with too much around and find it difficult to concentrate on the task at hand. For adults, most of the time it is caused by emotional stress, fatigue or perhaps hormonal changes. However, with medical advancement and studies, the association with ADHD has also led to many parents’ worries.
However, instead of panicking at the slightest observation on lack of concentration and focus, parents should take a step back and analyse the situation. For a young child, it is not surprising if they are unable to focus on instructions or stay long enough to even hear them. After all they are still progressing along their developmental milestones. There are so many things for them to discover and learn of, it is no wonder that their mind is constantly wandering off.
If you look at the situation, a lot of the time when we are saying “Why are you not focusing?” and “You are not trying hard enough!”, our actual thought is actual “Oh no, what if you cannot absorb and learn? What if you cannot catch up to your peers?”, which is a valid concern.
To bring us back to the topic, concentration is relevant and important skill for children to pick up as they grow.
Well, concentration is the key to filtering out unwanted stimuli which can include external sounds, visual input and other unrelated thoughts. When we are able to concentrate at an optimum level, we will find that the tasks get easier as we remember instruction more easily, are able to target problem areas more readily, make lesser mistakes and in all, lessen the time taken on the task as our efficiency improves. If you put that into studies, having better concentration will naturally allow you to learn and absorb information faster.
So what can we do to improve concentration?
Parents have to understand that a person’s sustainable level of concentration depends on several factors, mainly interest and motivation; skill and ability; environment; commitment level and their physical and mental state.
Jessie (7 yo) has a school assignment where she has to sort out beads according to size and colour. However, it is summer and it is extremely warm in the afternoon. Jessie is feeling lethargic after a heavy lunch and her favourite toys is just on the table beside her. The television in the living room is also turned on a loud volume.
To be fair, a combination of warm weather and heavy lunch can make an adult sleepy too. Jessie would have been too tired mentally to be able to focus on her assignment. Furthermore, the environment is not suitable, in the sense that she has distractions in the form of visual (toys) and auditory (noise from television).
Circumstances like these are all too common, and in this scenario, perhaps Jessie should take a nap first, and wake up refreshed to do her assignment. It is recommended that distractions are removed, perhaps moving her to a quieter room to do her work. As for the toys, perhaps they should be part of the motivation. Such as if she finishes half of the assignment, she will get to play with them for 10 minutes. If Jessie is having difficulty with the task, she would naturally need someone to guide her. Inability to complete a task or understand instructions often lead to the loss of interest and ultimately being unable to concentrate.
Some ways to help the situation (adapted from Ananda Sangha)
- Avoid constant sensory input. Multi-tasking (trying to do more than one thing at a time), loud noises, and visual stimulation (such as from a T.V.) make concentration much more difficult, and being around them or doing them too much can put you into a habit of non-attention which can be hard to break.
- Make it a point to put your full concentration on whatever you are doing. Don’t let anything distract you. It really helps to be in a quiet place, but you can learn to block out noise if necessary.
- Stay calm. Deep concentration is a matter of increasing or directing your life-force or conscious, cosmic energy. The more of this kind of energy you have, the better. Scattered energy doesn’t help. It must be calm, focused energy. Learn to be calmly concentrated and be concentratedly calm.
A game that you can try (Myers, 2013):
The Coin Game:
- This game improves memory and sequencing as well as attention and concentration, and kids enjoy it because it’s fast-paced and fun.
- First, you will need a small pile of assorted coins, a cardboard sheet to cover them, and a stopwatch (or a regular watch with a second hand.)
- Choose five of the coins from the pile (for this example, we’ll say three 20-cents and two 10-cents) and put them into a sequence.
- Now, tell your child to “Look carefully at the coins arranged on the table.”
- Then, cover the coins with the cardboard.
- Start the stopwatch, and then ask them to make the same pattern using the coins from the pile.
- When they are finished, mark the time with the stopwatch and remove the cardboard cover.
- Write down the time it took them to complete the pattern and whether or not they were correct.
- If they didn’t complete it correctly, have them keep trying until they can do it.
You can increase the difficulty of the patterns as you go, and include coins of different denominations (or even countries). You’ll see your child’s concentration and sequencing improve the more they play, which is a great reward for both of you.
We always encourage learning through fun!
Z.J. Ascensio. (2010). Five Games to Improve Concentration and Attention Span in Children. Retrieved from: http://voices.yahoo.com/five-games-improve-concentration-attention-7212274.html?cat=25.
Dr. Robert Myers. (2013). 5 Simple Concentration Building Techniques for Kids with ADHD. Retrieved from: http://www.empoweringparents.com/Five-Simple-Brain-Exercise-Activities-for-Your-ADHD-Child.php.
10 Ways to Increase Your Concentration. Ananda Sangha. Retrieved from: http://www.ananda.org/meditation/free-meditation-support/articles/increase-your-concentration/