What to do if your child has trouble focusing
Readjusting to classroom learning may come more easily to some children than others: After a year of being (mostly) taught at home, some children may welcome in person learning, while others could suffer from distraction and overstimulation. If your child has trouble focusing in class, there are a multitude of possibilities as to why that could be, and going through the process of diagnosing the problem and solving it is a delicate process.
Before looking for solutions, you have to detect the problem itself. And no, it doesn't have to be ADD/ADHD. There are many reasons why your child might be having difficulty paying attention in class, ranging from anxiety and stress to not getting proper sleep or nutrition. Of course, there is always the possibility that a child may have an undetected learning disability, but a diagnosis cannot be determined solely through a concerned teacher, or a single visit to a doctor.
How do I detect a learning disability? In order to detect a learning disability (e.g. dyslexia, ADHD, ADD etc.), a clinician should collect information about the child’s behavior from a number of people who have been able to observe the child, as well as conduct observation of the child alone, or among other students in the same age group as the child in question.
What can I do at school to make it easier for my child to pay attention? To make paying attention in class easier for your child, you could ask the teacher to change seating arrangements to either isolate the child from talkative classmates or have them sit at the front. If you have access to your child’s teacher, discuss your child’s particular learning style with them to see if that can be accomodated. Visual learners will be more attentive to diagrams, flashcards, and written homework assignments for example, while tactile/kinesthetic learners may do better by using objects they can touch (blocks, legos, or mock-ups of scenes) to absorb information.
What can I do at home? Catering at-home study to your child’s preferences can help keep their attention from wandering. Using methods that are different from those used in the classroom can keep things interesting and varied, while allowing breaks in between tasks can help manage their workload and attention.
Incorporating non-study activities can also help boost focus: Working on puzzles with your child, or even supervising them whilst they’re solving a puzzle helps improve their critical-thinking or problem-solving skills, and it’s also a great way to unwind and relax whilst still exercising their brain power. Make sure to provide puzzles that are suitable for your child’s age and abilities; if they start working on a puzzle that is meant for an older age group, they might give up and doubt their skills. For older children and those who are inclined, teaching children how to practice basic mindfulness skills can help them re-center their focus when they become distracted, even if it’s something as simple as stopping what you’re doing and counting to ten.
The bottom line is, some kids may be in for a bumpy ride this school year: Having to adjust to so many changes yet again won’t be easy, and attention and productivity may fall by the wayside at first. It may take some time to adjust, but as long as your child has the support they need and the resources they require to promote better focus, the adjustment will go smoothly eventually. Most importantly, remember to cut the kids, and yourself, some slack.