“How many times to I have to tell you?!” “It’s something you do EVERY DAY! Why can’t you remember to do it?!”
I’m not sure about you, but I have been known to say these things to my children in my weak moments. I am not proud of myself, and yet there are days when I just can’t seem to help my child “get it.” Now with a new school year starting I am trying to plan ahead for what I know may help our children focus and complete their daily routines wit out frustration… for either of us.
We know that this sort of thing isn’t a quick fix. It’s not something that you can sit down and discuss with your child one time and then it will be better.
Realistically- we are all relatively distracted** people who are raising people who can’t focus, for one reason or another. Time and time again I find myself getting frustrated because I have to remind my child over and over again to do their homework, put their things away, etc. I know that I can’t be the only parent feeling the stress of an impending new school year, change of routine (again) and morning struggles to get out the door on time.
I recently listened to an Honestly Adoption podcast by Mike and Kristen Berry who offered some great suggestions and insight in to some practical ways to help our children focus and attend to their daily tasks. Check it out for yourself here:
One of the first ways to address this is to OWN your own lack of focus and have a heartfelt conversation with your child about some things that you have noticed in them. Be honest and discuss some things that work for you to stay on track and get your things done.
Having a conversation with your child by the time you need your child to focus (let’s say before kindergarten) might be very helpful if we can address this with our child (our observations) and include them in on the solutions. Oftentimes with their lack of focus, the child feels out of control and they get frustrated, so including them in creating strategies can really help build that connection between you and also give them some control and greatly reduce some of the frustrations.
Some other ideas that can help with focus are:
>>Creating a list- it is a really good strategy to create lists that include 3 to 5 items that are tangible for the child to be able to follow. These lists need to be very specific and not vague. Lists are a picture clue, or reminder, of what comes next. This will be so important as the kids get older as well because what preteen or teenager wants to be nagged? When we can use the lists it takes that argument/nagging away. Children get to cross the list off and then parents can cross off the item in another color as a seal of approval that it was completed to the expectations set.
>>A key to creating and using these lists is creating structure. These lists your kids use are the same every single day- this way everyone knows what to expect. Consistency is such a game changer- our kids need that. Repeat, repeat, repeat every. Single. Day. The longer you do this the more you are going to see positive results. An example that Mike Berry gave during the podcast suggests creating bite sized chunks of time, or bite sized responsibility for your child. This starts by tasking something small that they can accomplish (focused activity) followed by a period of unfocused activity, or something that they enjoy/want to do. “Let’s do one math problem (or work for 10 minutes on homework) and then you can have 15 minutes of playing your video game. When that is done then we need to complete our work.” This can give the child a tangible, do-able task, with a break included, that is specific and short enough in duration to create an accomplishment!
>>Some kids respond well to using a timer along with their tasks; they are challenged by “beating the timer” and enjoy that OR maybe a timer will stress your child out. That is something you will have to consider and evaluate based on your child’s needs. A visual timer can help those younger kids who cannot yet read a clock.
>>Setting goals can be very fun and helpful as well. Setting a goal like- “let’s put away 10 items each and then we will eat supper, and then…”. This is another example of mixing a focused activity and then unfocused activity.
I hope that you find these suggestions helpful and can find a way to incorporate strategies that will fit your family situation. If you want to hear more information about how to create the lists or other strategies for helping your child I encourage you to look up the Honestly Adoption podcast and Mike and Kristen Berry.
This blog post was written by former Post Adopt Coordinator, Sonya Lundstrom.