Many children will experience difficulties sometime during their academic life, whether it's acclimating to a new school, the challenge of a particular subject or simply trying to navigate the social pecking order. When this happens, especially with young students, parents suffer, too. They may feel ill-equipped to help or even get angry at the child, which raises stress levels for everyone involved.
Early signs that a child is struggling to focus on schoolwork include low grades, a stated dislike of school and/or disruptive behavior in class. Before you start looking for solutions, consider the possible reasons your child is having trouble focusing in school. Here are a few common causes:
• Lack of Practice. Many young children have a hard time focusing in the classroom simply because they are in a new environment. This can also happen to older children after a vacation from school, such as spring break or summer holidays. Give them time to settle in.
• Difficulty with the Material. What might look like a lack of concentration could actually be a lack of understanding the material. This can lead students to stop paying attention, and consequently fall further behind. Discuss class material or review homework assignments. Doing so may point to the problem.
• Boredom. For some children, what is being taught in class may not be challenging enough. Children who are not challenged can lose interest, are likely to stop paying attention, grow restless and seek distractions. An attentive teacher can help motivate a student to focus on the work.
• Distractions. The classroom can be a place full of distractions, from chatty classmates to a cluttered workstation. Some children have a harder time than others filtering them out, and consequently struggle to pay attention to the teacher. A parent can reinforce good habits at home--like turning off the TV, setting aside the smartphone and tuning out other interruptions that get in the way of homework.
• Mismatched Learning Style. Educators are increasingly aware that different students have different learning styles. Some learn best by seeing, some by hearing, and others by doing, or some combination of the three. If your child's teacher emphasizes a learning style that doesn't match with how your child learns, a lack of focus and understanding can result. As a parent it is important to share your knowledge of your child's preferences with the teacher so that accommodations can be made.
• Getting Enough Sleep and Nutrition. What would seem like the most obvious solution is easily overlooked. If your child is not getting the recommended 8-10 hours of sleep each night---especially if he or she is experiencing a growth spurt---they won't have the energy needed to concentrate in class. Skipping breakfast is another recognized cause for a lack of focus in class. If your child is headed to class hungry, he or she is more apt to be distracted. Simply packing a nutritional snack might be all that is required to see a difference.
• School Anxiety. Anxiety about school or grades---a not uncommon condition---should be addressed as early as possible to avoid a longer-term problem. School counselors are skilled at addressing this type of performance stress. Alternatively, seek out your EAP for help.
• A Learning Difficulty. If all other possibilities have been ruled out, it could be time to look into possible learning difficulties. In some cases, the learning difficulty could be Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), or Dyslexia. He or she may also have hearing issues such as CAPD (Central Auditory Discrimination Disorder) or a problem with near-sightedness. Each of these can be addressed with a visit to the doctor or with the help of a tutor and learning plan, so your child can improve his or her focus and succeed in the classroom.
If you'd like to discuss something in your life with a COPE counselor, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: Oxford Learning
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