Depending on your child's true dominant nature, you have many options as to how to approach helping a child who struggles with staying focused and on task.
What does your child need? The following tips will assist you as you observe your child and learn how your child moves, spends time, and responds to life challenges.
Time alone? Does your child prefer quiet slower movement or like to sit alone, if so, consider asking your child to take a stroll around the yard or to go outside and sit under a tree and read or listen to music before having to study or do chores. Giving your child quiet time, allows them to clear out the activities of the day and come back to center. Less movement may be what they need after being active at school. Allowing some screen time, listening to music, resting or just being alone can rejuvenate them to come back to focus.
Give your child the space to move at their own pace, be it quick or slow. When a child knows that whatever pace they move is alright, they will be more willing to focus.If you have concerns that your child is too quiet, disengaged and missing out due to their sensitive or quiet nature, keep communication open, observe and ask questions.
Putting it as a challenge- Some kids like a challenge and when it is presented as a thing that needs to be done, they are eager to step up. Tap into their competitive nature with comments like, I wonder if you can get that done by dinner time? Or What will happen first- you completing (your homework, chore, etc) or dinner being ready?
For other kids, it may mean that their chores or homework be broken into smaller chunks that they can feel successful achieving.
What environment is best? – The determined child likes structure, knowing what to expect and having an environment that provides them space for focus. Allow them to help create the space they need. The quiet reflective child may need a space that allows them to be alone. The energetic child, might prefer that they do homework or chores while other things are going on. They may prefer to have noise and people around. I any case, ask your child what type of environment will allow them to focus. Be willing to accommodate and make changes as they try different settings. This allows them to discover what will work for them.
Nourishment? – Some kids may need food or drink to allow them to focus. After a day in a classroom with lots of energy, focus and demands, your child may need refueling. They may even need it part way through the day, if their behavior is showing signs of stress. A snack can be something that has some glucose, (fruit) or good fat (nut butter, avocado, coconut oil) or protein (cheese, meat, nuts). As you observe the child’s behavior you will discover what works best for them. Bring them into the awareness of what their body is asking for, so that they connect to knowing what the signs are too.
When focus is required - Ask your child what helps them to focus with the most ease. They may require something different than you do to focus. Some require quiet, others do better with noise, music, etc. Allow your child to explore what works best to create the environment that will support them. This demonstrates that they get to choose and take control of their learning. It also gives the message that you know they know what is best for them or that they are at least learning what will work best. You can always offer a suggestion or two if they get stuck for ideas.
Make a to-do list- Having a lot of chores and homework assignments can be overwhelming for kids. Help your child focus on getting things done by making a list — together — of everything that needs to be done for the day or week. Then let the child cross off each task as it gets completed. You can support their action by commenting, “I see you got that done. What’s next for you?” Observe how your child responds when things get done and they have achieved completion of the tasks.
Use signals- If your child is prone to having distractions interfere with focus, you and your child can come up with a few basic signals that will allow for fewer distractions. For example, when you point to your eyes you are indicating to put eyes back on work. Or when you bring your finger to your lips it means to stop talking. For some kids, it helps to just lay a hand on their shoulder to bring them back into focus. You can also have a signal for when the child has a question or needs some assistance. Be sure to include hand signals, like a thumbs up, to acknowledge the child is on task. Have your child come up with the hand signals that they prefer so that are in on it and it isn't one more thing that they have to respond to from someone else. It can be your own secret code. These signals can also be shared with a teacher and the child can learn to advocate for their own learning strategies.
Take breathers- During homework time, set a timer so that your child gets a break every 30-50 minutes or so to get up and move around, get a drink, and then go back to work. The break should be a time to relax for a bit before returning to the homework. Check in and see if the child needs a longer break and be willing to honor that- example: I can see that you have been focused on getting your work done. Would you like to continue to finish now, or complete it after dinner? As you get to know your child more, you will have a sense of what is needed, rather than what they are using to manipulate the situation to get out of doing the task. While short breaks allow the child to refresh, a long break may break the momentum.
Being able to honor your child's unique way of being in the world applies to all areas of learning and living. When a parent can let go of what they think focus needs to look like, and begin to observe and see what is truly happening with their child, much insight is gained in how to accommodate the child's learning style and capacity to focus. What if there is no right way to focus on getting things done? What if there isn't one box that all kids (and adults) have to be in so that things get accomplished?