If your child can't concentrate, it makes sense to feel worried. Learning difficulties and other challenges might present for kids who can't concentrate in class, and it makes sense to wonder what causes this to happen. You aren't alone, and there are many possible reasons for poor concentration or difficulty focusing in children.
Paying attention to when challenges with focus or concentration began or worsened is one way to scope out what could be happening. During this process, it can be beneficial to learn about the many causes of concentration issues in children. So, what might lead to a lack of concentration and focus in child years?
In this article, we'll discuss potential causes of difficulty concentrating in kids, such as lack of sleep, family or relationship problems, and developmental disorders like ADHD. Then, we'll talk about signs to look out for, talking with a medical provider about your concerns, and finally, how Joon can help your child focus.
What Can Affect a Child's Concentration And Focus?
Concentration issues can affect anyone and have a number of different causes. Even in kids with ADHD, existing focus or concentration problems can be exacerbated by factors and circumstances like lack of sleep, no routine, or mental health challenges. With that in mind, consider some of the following possibilities to help you determine why your child's having an uptick in trouble concentrating.
Lack of sleep
Sleep is one of the most critical components of caring for one's health. Studies show that lack of sleep can impact nearly all parts of life and well-being, including learning, focus, memory, mental health, physical health, and personal safety. To help your child get enough sleep, use sleep hygiene practices and stick to a consistent bedtime routine. Talk with your child's doctor if they continue to struggle with getting enough sleep (or face other problems with sleep on a persistent basis) despite your efforts.
Routines are important for all children, as they teach organization and help a child know what's coming next during the day. For a child with a condition like ADHD, routine can be even more crucial. To help their child improve concentration and focus, many parents set routines for their child that include activities like getting ready for school, homework, chores, and other tasks.
Mental health conditions
Mental health conditions like anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, and eating disorders have the potential to affect a child's concentration and focus severely. If your child's concentration difficulties started at around the same time as other symptoms, such as panic attacks, feelings of depression, or changes in eating habits, consider seeking support from a mental health professional such as a therapist.
Family or relationship difficulties
Stress and trauma can affect focus in people of any age group. If your family is going through a hard time or a major adjustment of any kind, it could affect your child's ability to focus, lead to trouble learning at school, and so on. Again, take note of what was happening in your child's life when concentration problems started or worsened.
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Most medications have a variety of potential side effects. Some medications can cause memory, focus, and concentration difficulties. If your child is on a medication that can affect concentration or focus and you notice a marked uptick in concentration problems, talk with your child's doctor.
Too much screen time
Time and time again, we hear about the effects of screen time on a child's behavior and well-being. Is it really true that screen time can affect focus? Research shows that the answer is yes - it can. Data from over 2,000 children and their parents found that increased screen time was associated with attention problems in preschoolers.
This doesn't mean that all screen time is bad, but it's necessary that parents limit their child's screen time appropriately.
When you don't eat regular meals and snacks, you are a lot more apt to have trouble focusing. One common way this manifests is by skipping breakfast and other meals. Research shows that skipping breakfast is associated with poorer school attendance, academic performance, and well-being, as well as unhealthy behaviors related to diet and physical activity, in children and adolescents. Many things can affect a child's ability to get the necessary nutrients. Often, parents can help by implementing a regular meal and snack schedule.
Of course, it's necessary to discuss developmental disorders such as ADHD as a potential cause of attention and concentration difficulties. ADHD is a common condition and reason for persistent difficulties with concentration, focus, or attention span. Statistics suggest that about 9.8% of children in the 3-17 age group live with ADHD. Other developmental disorders can affect concentration, too, and may lead to a tough time at school or in other parts of life.
Does your child find it hard to concentrate primarily in class or while learning? Learning disabilities do not always affect attention span but can. In some instances, it may be helpful to look out for signs of a learning disorder or learning disability, such as dyslexia or dyscalculia, in your child. Mismatched learning style or school anxiety might also lead to a more difficult time focusing in class.
Signs Of Attention and Concentration Difficulties
How can you tell if your child's concentration levels are lower than other kids? Looking out for signs of attention and concentration difficulties can help you figure out what's going on or whether it's time to talk with a medical professional. In addition to learning difficulties at school, you may notice one or more of the following.
Staring into space often
Does your child state into space when you talk to them directly? Parents might think their child is doing this as an act of defiance but rarely is that the case. Staring into space, being easily distracted, or seeming as though one isn't listening when they're spoken to directly are all incredibly common characteristics seen in those with ADHD. Other disorders, like autism spectrum disorder, could be worth your consideration.
Lack of awareness
A child with lower concentration levels might seem to lack awareness at times. Examples you may notice include but aren't limited to:
- Failing to remember items for school (e.g., binders, pencils, or school books)
- Forgetting to start or finish important tasks (e.g., chores, school work, or brushing their teeth)
- Getting distracted at school, when spoken to, or in other circumstances
Needing directions repeated
When young people need directions repeated more frequently than one would expect, it can be a sign of a concentration problem. If your child finds themselves asking you to repeat directions or forgets what you asked them to do soon after you spoke, it may not be on purpose. Instead, it could indicate that your child has a concentration problem.
Taking a lot of time to finish tasks
When kids have a concentration problem, it might take them longer to finish tasks. Tasks may take longer because a child gets distracted by external stimuli, because they have a hard time transitioning to a new activity, or for another reason.
Frustration over not being able to focus
Many children who have trouble focusing or paying attention experience frustration as a result. It's not easy when you want to focus but are unable to. You may notice that your child gets frustrated while unable to focus on homework or on other tasks that require sustained focus. Your child's teacher or teachers may notice the same at school.
Seeking Help for Trouble Focusing
If you're worried about your child's lack of concentration or focus, make an appointment to talk with their doctor. Many parents have an inkling as to what the cause of difficulty focusing might be, though this is not always the case.
Regardless, doctors will look at your child's medical history and ask when the problems started to help identify the cause. Usually, if applicable, they will ask about your child's experiences in class or at school, as well as the way symptoms affect them at home. After that, they will start to rule out potential causes. In some instances, a child's doctor will refer your child to another medical or mental health professional, such as a neurologist or psychologist, for testing. Other children may receive an evaluation or diagnosis in their pediatrician's office.
In the case that you have an idea as to what could be causing concentration problems for your child, let their doctor know. For example, parents may suspect ADHD or anxiety as a potential cause of their child's trouble paying attention. This isn't necessary, but it can help your child get answers faster in some instances.
Once you understand the cause of your child's difficulty focusing, you can address it appropriately.
What Will Help My Child Concentrate?
Helping your child concentrate is most often contingent on why they have trouble concentrating in the first place. To help a child with ADHD, for example, you might:
- Remove distractions. If your child is working on difficult tasks like homework, remove distractions from the room. Distractions may include but aren't limited to loud noises, electronics, and so on.
- Use positive reinforcement. Give your child positive reinforcement to promote good behavior.
- Build a routine. Again, routines can be helpful for all children but can be particularly crucial for those with a poor attention span. Routines can help your child focus on important tasks and understand what to expect next.
- Promote breaks and movement. During difficult tasks, plan a time for your child to take a break.
- Get treatment. Treating conditions like ADHD is important. Often, a child will benefit from a combination of medication and behavior therapy to address ADHD, though there are many treatment options out there. Similarly, address mental health concerns if relevant.
Children with ADHD, learning disabilities, and other concerns that affect learning, often benefit from school accommodations. Accommodations might include the ability to take exams separate from the rest of the class, seating arrangements that reduce distractions, or something else.
How Joon Can Help
Designed for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and related conditions, Joon is an excellent tool for any child who has trouble concentrating, focusing, or completing important tasks like homework, chores, and self-care activities.
How does it work? First, parents create a custom task list for their children in the Joon Parent App. When children complete items on their task list, parents approve the task, and their child gets rewards in the Joon Pet Game app that allow them to care for a virtual pet.
90% of children who use Joon finish all the tasks their parents assign. Alongside other positive effects, Joon promotes focus, independence, and self-esteem in children.
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