What can I do to help my kids focus?
This time of year, your family goes through a reset. In a flash, your kids go from fun and play to work and study. During the school year, your child has so much on their plate - school, sports, friends, family activities - dang! Sometimes, it's almost like being a kid is more demanding than being an adult! What a life our kids lead these days.
With all of these things going on, and not to mention the current "instant gratification" mentality we tend to have in our current society, it can become quite a challenge to help kids focus. Their minds are going a million miles-per-hour. With things like Tiktok and Youtube, how can sitting down with a dull text book hashing out math problems even compete?
We’re going to talk about some things that can help improve your child’s ability to concentrate, including a great plant-based way to increase focus.
It can be a challenge to help kids focus
We get it. A lot of kids just don't want to work. It is very natural to feel lazy or want to take the easy road in life. But there is this other part of us as human being - even as children - that longs for fulfillment, accomplishment, and doing a quality job. This is what living a life of color is all about. Kids can just take time to grow into realizing they really want this kind of life.
So, the next time your kids say "I don't waaaaannna do my homework. Uggghhhhh" (voice filled with angsty self-pity), just remember that inside they truly do want to work, they just need some help recognizing it.
And, on some occasions, a good ol’ kick in the pants.
What to do when your child can't focus
There are many courses of action you can take to help your kids focus. Here are the things that we will discuss in this article:
- Have a set study space
- Write a list of tasks
- Do one thing at a time
- Schedule short breaks
- Practice breathing exercises
- Make it fun, make it a game
- Use rewards when needed
- Make it applicable to real life
- Add color to life through ‘noble pleasures’
- Feed their brains (last, but certainly not least)
Have a set study space
One of the simplest things you can do to improve a child's ability to focus is to have a set space for them to study. There are two reasons this is important:
- Minimizing distractions
- A fancy thing called "contextual learning"
This one makes sense to pretty much all of us. Home can be a crazy place - kids screaming, people running from one thing to the next, cackling laughter heard while children share stories, and, on occasion, total mayhem.
Set up a study space away from the food in the kitchen, the TV in the living room, and the crazy younger siblings skateboarding in the house on cookie sheets strapped to roller-chair wheels (not that any of our kids do this, obviously...)
Though you may think your kids are tornados of terror sometimes, it doesn't mean that they study best in a zone of natural disasters. Set your kid up for success - get them out of the chaos and into a place of order.
Bonus tip: For extra exciting homes, ear plugs or headphones may be a key addition to your focus-boosting repertoire.
Our brains like to form habits. Did you know they even form habits about where we do certain things? Our brains build perceptions for where we play, eat, work, sleep, etc. This is called contextual learning.
This is one of the reasons why you automatically go to open the fridge when you are in the kitchen. Your brain has learned when I’m in the kitchen, I eat. This is also one reason why you fall asleep when you attempt to accomplish work sitting in bed.
When we have a consistent place for work, and only for work, our brain can come to understand over time this is where I work. When done properly, this can help your child get in the “work zone” each time they sit down at their desk. The more they work in the same spot, the more their brain will build the habit of going into ‘work mode’ when they sit at that same desk.
Working at random locations throughout the house will throw your child’s brain off. On the flip side, completing homework in bed may begin to teach your child’s brain I don’t sleep here, I work here. Then they may find it harder to sleep when they get in bed. And this, as we all know, is certainly no good for building the ability to focus.
Write a list of tasks
Sometimes when your kid says they are "bored" or they are procrastinating an assignment, it is because they don't know how to do it or there is uncertainty about the steps they need to take.
Do your child a favor, teach them to be organized. Show them how to write out steps and a plan for how they will complete something.
Work is done one bite at a time. You’ll choke if you try to eat the whole cow at once. Or moose, or goat - whatever fits your fancy. We don’t judge.
Any very large problem can be solved if it is broken down into tiny problems.
Do one thing at a time
Perhaps your child is the linear type, perhaps they are the creative type. Either way, if they are having trouble focusing, it may be because they are trying to focus on 2, 3, or 10 things at once.
This is not effective. When we focus on multiple things at once, we often end up doing each thing half-way decent, or even poorly. Focusing on one thing at a time, especially for boys, is a great way to help kids focus.
Sitting down with your child to reason things out with them and see what needs to be prioritized and focused on first can be a good call. Over time, teach them how to ask the right questions and go through this process on their own. Then, hopefully, down the road they’ll be able to do this on their own.
Schedule short breaks
Many kids have school, sports, extracurricular activities, friends, and even a part-time job.
That’s a lot, and they’re seriously amazing to do it all! But even superheroes need a break sometimes.
If it works best for your child, pencil in a short 5-10 minute break for them to do something that helps them decompress. This could be grabbing a healthy snack (such as Ruvi), sitting down with a book they enjoy, chatting, playing outside, or something else uplifting.
Try to avoid things that are highly stimulating like video games. Otherwise, you may find your child saying “but mom! Just 5 more minutes!”
Battling to get your child back on their work is not a great outcome. The point of this study break is not higher mental stimulation, it is decompression.
Practice breathing exercises
Teaching children breathing exercises can be extremely beneficial for their mental health and their ability to focus.
Two very powerful breathing exercises are diaphragmatic breathing and relaxation breathing.
Diaphragmatic breathing is breathing using your belly (like how we naturally breathe).
Relaxation breathing is breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth in a specific way. While there are multiple different techniques, one great way to do relaxation breathing is to breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds and out through your mouth for 8 seconds. Repeat this several times until a state of calm begins to set in.
These breathing techniques are easy to teach to your children. They’re something they can use throughout their lives to improve their mental state and concentration.
Make it fun, make it a game
Many kids are more engaged when you make something a competition. Turn homework into a race or into a game with intermittent fun activities.
For instance, if your child loves basketball, you could say for every 5 math problems they finish they get to throw a crumpled up piece of paper into the trash can 5 times (hopefully not their homework). They can add up their points and see how many they get by the end. Then, as they’re working towards the next chance to “Kobe” their crumpled up paper into the trash can, they might find themselves more engaged in their work.
Use rewards when needed
It’s not necessary (or probably effective) to always use rewards for homework. Hopefully your kids will learn to enjoy finishing their work simply for the sake of their own internal satisfaction. Using rewards, however, can be a great way of teaching their brain to enjoy work for its own sake over time.
When using a reward, make that reward clear and specific. Also, give reasonable rewards for the amount of work your child completes. They need to really work for it so they feel fulfilled and proud when they receive the reward. Learning we can do hard things is a major part of living life in color.
Make it applicable to real life
“When will I ever use this in real life??”, said every child ever born. Of course, as most of us know, you won’t use everything you learn in school out in real life. But you certainly will use many of them.
For instance, how many of us thought that geography was a pointless endeavor? Then, how many times throughout your life have you talked to someone about their vacation in a random exotic place in the world, or heard news a natural disaster in some small country in the world? You all of a sudden really want to know where that place is.
When possible, help your child see how something applies to real life. Help them to see the bigger picture and how they might use this knowledge in the future.
Though, as we all know, kids these days might just say “I can always look that up on Google.” And well, that is true. But so can everyone else. So what’s cool about simply being able to do what everyone else can do? That seems pretty boring when you think about it.
Add color to life with ‘noble pleasures’
The more time your child spends playing video games, watching TV, and spending time on TikTok, the more they will get used to doing things that require little effort and yield very high mental reward.
Our brains build habits and adjust to the level of entertainment that we train them to get used to. If that stimulation is really high, then things that are “mundane” or “boring” will seem really mundane and really boring.
Add color to your life by experiencing ‘noble pleasures’ as a family and helping your children get involved in more noble pleasures as well.
Noble pleasures include things such as reading books, hiking, playing sports, socializing with friends, playing a musical instrument, cooking together, etc. These will bring joy to life without feeding the pleasure-beast with sugary bonbons of over-indulged entertainment.
Feed their brains to increase focus
Modern science and ancient tradition show a very clear tie between nutrition and mental health. “You are what you eat” as the saying goes. When we eat junk, we focus like junk too.
Kids hopped up on sugar, sweeteners, fast food, and other highly inflammatory foods often struggle to concentrate. They feel inconsistent and on edge, and they may find school, work, and life “boring” pretty much all the time.
When our gut is unhealthy, our brain is unhealthy. Studies over the past 20 years are clearly showing this, especially those on the gut-brain connection.
When our digestion suffers, and we are not getting the nutrients we need, our body cannot produce neurotransmitters properly. Neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin are used by the brain to give us feelings of motivation and well-being. We must get the right nutrients and feed our good gut microbes if we want to focus well.
Ruvi is a plant-based way to increase your focus. It contains all of the natural fiber, vitamins, and minerals that your body needs to function right. It provides your brain with some of the most powerful foundational pieces of focus available to us - fruits and veggies.
Ruvi Focus contains 5 different berries (two of them superfoods) that have been featured in multiple studies showing they have a positive impact on focus and mental health. Plus, Ruvi Focus contains other vegetables and fruit that can improve physical and mental health. In all, Ruvi contains 10 different fruits & veggies that help with focus.
If your child is having troubles focusing, buy them a a pack of Ruvi Focus. You’ll both be happy that you did.