Ways to help your child focus during homework time
1) Reduce noisy distractions
When your child is at home, help him focus by eliminating unnecessary stimulation that could distract him, such as loud background music or the television. Find ways to keep these to a minimum if you can't block them completely.
Sit with your child
Research shows that a child plays longer with a toy when one of his parents sits beside him. This principle may apply to a school-going child too.
Try sitting with him when he starts an activity (you may read a book or newspaper). Smile at him, but avoid chatting. You may find this helps him focus better on the task.
Organise his environment
Children focus better when they have a well-organised learning environment, where everything is in its place.
For instance, if he is in the habit of working at a table that is cluttered with books, newspapers, toys and scattered pens and pencils, teach him to keep his things tidy. Keep stationery in a container and discard old newspapers.
Set attainable targets
Don't set him up for failure by setting a concentration target he cannot possibly reach, as it would lower his self-esteem.
Instead, suggest that he concentrate on an activity for just five minutes and he can then stop. Pick a time limit he can cope with.
Gradually extend his attention span
It's easier to build concentration skills at a steady pace than in large jumps.
Once he has achieved the target time (for instance, he reads a book for five minutes before putting it down for something else), add 30 seconds to this base time the following day/night.
Tell him the strategy so that he is fully aware of the new target. And when he succeeds, this becomes the new baseline.
Intersperse work with play
Let him choose his own activities in between periods of focus. He could play or listen to music after he has concentrated for the agreed period. This helps recharge his concentration skills.
Once he has played for a reasonable amount of time, bring him back to the learning activity for a further specified time.
Give him ownership
Although you want to help your child improve, make sure you don't take full responsibility for this.
There is a fine line between supporting your child and taking charge. If you do the latter, the drive to improve his concentration rests with you, not him.
Encourage him to be actively involved by participating in a selection of techniques.
This article was first published in Young Parents (www.youngparents.com.sg)