Kids with certain learning or attention issues can have trouble staying focused on schoolwork or might get easily distracted. It can be hard to know how to approach the topic with your child in a positive and productive way. To help, explore the common challenges and suggested conversation starters below.
Trouble Staying Focused
What you can say: “I know you try hard to pay attention in class but you get distracted. What helps you stay focused?”
Tip: It might help your child to stay focused if the teacher comes over and touches his shoulder when she wants him to pay attention.
What you can say: “What helps you stay focused when you’re doing homework?”
Tip: Your child may do well with a quiet, orderly space to do his homework. Or listening to music might help him concentrate.
What you can say: “What things (noises, people) distract you the most?”
Tip: It might be better for your child to be seated away from loud or distracting classmates in school. Talk to your child’s teacher about this possibility.
Trouble Starting Projects and Shifting Between Activities
What you can say: “Remember that big science project you did last year? You started late and had to give up some fun activities so you could finish it. What do you think would help you start projects sooner?”
Tip: To avoid procrastination, you might want to start going over project instructions with your child as soon as a project is assigned. Talk about where he anticipates he might need help from you or clarification from the teacher.
What you can say: “The pirate ship you’re building looks awesome—you’re following those instructions really well. But you sure get upset when I tell you it’s time to stop playing and do your homework. Let’s figure out how to make the switch from play to work go better.”
Tip: Help your child find “pause points” in a game or project to save his work and set it aside for later. You can also try making eye contact with him each time you issue a warning to switch gears.
Trouble With Complicated Directions
Your child might say: “Mom, when you give me so many directions in a row I can’t remember them all!”
Tip: You might want to ask your child to do no more than two things in a row, and make eye contact when you ask. You can also write clear to-do lists for home and school.