Improve your child's concentration

Do you suspect that your child has difficulty concentrating? The signs include fidgeting a lot, not paying attention when spoken to, and being forgetful. It's frustrating, but it is a problem that can be fixed.

Education experts define concentration as being able to focus on a specific task for a reasonable period of time. If this seems like a far cry from your hyper, cannot-sit-still child, then read on.

Lack of concentration can have various causes, says June Petersen, who used to be a high-school teacher at Penryn College in Nelspruit. The causes will depend on the age of the child, and sometimes there could be a medical reason as well.

June experienced the problem first hand when her son's teachers told her he wasn't concentrating in class. She immediately turned the pressure on, thinking he was simply being lazy, but the problem persisted. She eventually took him to an occupational therapist, who diagnosed him as having a spatial problem.

This meant, for example, that he could not copy information from the board without losing his place in his book – the lines seemed to shift all the time – and this was why he could not finish his work in class.

June says, 'A friend then told me that she had her sons' eyes tested and it was discovered that two of them needed spectacles. I decided to take my son to an optometrist, who then found that he indeed had a spatial problem, and that specs would help. He also gave him eye exercises to do, and it has made a world of difference.'

On another occasion June battled with a boy in her class who fidgeted all the time, and could not sit still. It was only when he was tested that it was found that he needed remedial classes. As a result he became much calmer, and was much happier in his new school.

Possible causes
In younger children, lapses in concentration could be caused by:

Lack of sleep
If your child is tired she won't be able to concentrate so put her to bed at a reasonable hour. Aim for her to get about nine hours' sleep a night.

Personal circumstances
Your child will find it easier to concentrate when she is not troubled or anxious about something such as falling out with friends, or is having difficulty getting along with her teacher.

Motivation and interest
She will be able to concentrate for longer if she's interested in what she's doing.

A weak immune system, dehydration and bad eating habits could all contribute to poor levels of concentration. Make sure that she takes a multivitamin and mineral supplement every day.

Surrounding conditions
A lot of activity, noise, or a television that is always on does not contribute to the calm atmosphere that is needed for high levels of concentration.

Distracted teens
If your teenager's mind is always elsewhere, this could be why:

Lack of sleep
Encourage teenagers to go to bed and to get up at roughly the same time every day.

Personal circumstances
Similar to younger children, being anxious or troubled about issues at home or at school, or with friends, could lead to low levels of concentration.

Lack of motivation
Getting them to be interested in the subject will make a huge difference to their levels of concentration.

Teacher trouble
When children do not like a teacher or have a problem with a particular teacher, they usually do not perform well.

Health problems
Concentration could be affected by regular illness due to a lack of medication for a chronic condition such as asthma, or because of a weak immune system and an unhealthy diet.

Lack of exercise
This could make children lethargic and tired, and they won't be able to concentrate, especially after lunch.

Is your child unable to concentrate? What are some of the things you've done to help him?

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