Alright, so 2020 has been challenging, to say the least. However, despite the suckiness, there’s still plenty of ways to make the most of things. So, along those lines, Balint Horvath, PhD, and founder of Project Father, drops by today with a post about how parents can use these uncertain times to develop our kids’ focus. Check it out!
Facing the COVID-19 pandemic these past few months has been challenging for many people. For parents, it’s been a time of stress as they worry about their own and their kids’ survival. One of our most basic needs is being constantly threatened and it doesn’t seem to be getting any easier.
But, as a father to my own two-year-old daughter, I make a conscious effort every day to find the benefits of living with COVID-19 in our lives. And, while the thought of spending weeks or months indoors with a toddler would have most parents trembling in their boots, I’ve chosen to have an open mindset.
What does this mean? It means looking for opportunities even when it seems impossible they exist. It means embracing the change and helping my child and family to do the same. Yes, COVID-19 has managed to do something not even World War 2 could do. It’s brought the world economy to a standstill.
You may be wondering, “What now? What am I going to do with my kids? Where’s the opportunity here?”
You want to know what I think? We’ve been handed the golden opportunity to bond with our children, to have uninterrupted family time, and to literally switch off from all the craziness around us. I’ve taken it one step further and chosen to use this time to continue teaching my daughter (and myself) to develop her focus and concentration skills.
The Importance of Teaching Kids to Focus
As a scrum master (productivity coach) myself, I’ve explored the value of learning to focus. In fact, the experience of focusing is key to all of our developmental processes. What better skill to impart on our children than to teach them how to focus?
With so many daily distractions that have become the norm such as mobiles, social media, the internet, television, and more, children battle to keep focus. What’s more, even if you try to keep the COVID-19 news lowkey in your home, your kids are picking up on it. They have amazing abilities to detect undercurrents and they’ll get easily distracted by the happenings surrounding COVID-19.
By teaching your kid to focus, you’re giving them invaluable skills. Your child will be better equipped to handle what life throws at them. They’ll learn to self-regulate and to engage at longer stretches when playing with their creativity-enhancing toys or later when your child goes to school. Especially at school, you can get some tangible benefits – they’ll have the capacity to concentrate fully on a task.
Focusing will improve your kid’s ability to communicate with others especially when they’ve mastered the art of true listening. Your child will be able to distinguish what is important to hear and what isn’t. They’ll grow and learn to see the bigger picture rather than get distracted by trivial matters.
When your child is able to concentrate for long periods of time, they’re able to hold their thoughts even when interrupted. Kids will not need to be told directions over and over again and they’ll be able to complete a task on their own which will boost their self-esteem.
A focused child has an innate sense of confidence which will stand them in good stead when facing challenges such as the pandemic.
5 Ways to Improve Kids’ Focus
I practice what I preach so I’m going to share with you some of the ways I teach my own daughter to focus. Remember, she’s only two years old so don’t ever think your child is too young to learn the art of focusing.
1. Show by Example
Children inherently don’t lack concentration or focus but they unlearn it very quickly from as early as babyhood. Your kids learn by observation and often the first people they observe are their own parents. Our habits become their habits and if you’re living with a bunch of bad habits, guess what? Your child is going to take them on too.
The next time you respond to a notification on your phone in the middle of a conversation, know your kid is watching you. The next time you try to get their attention the first thing they’re going to do is pick up their phones and start fiddling with it.
Thankfully my daughter is still too young to have her own mobile. But it’s still a habit she can pick up and use elsewhere. So, I make sure all my notifications are switched off for all channels except Whatsapp (and this is only for my VIP friends and family) when I spend time with my daughter.
2. Remove Distractions
When I sit down with my daughter to either play a game, read a book, or set out to do a task with her, I ensure we’re not dealing with other distractions. Besides my mobile, I also make sure any background noises such as the radio or television being left on are switched off.
I select one toy for my daughter to engage with and remove all other toys from her surrounding environment. A decluttered room lends to fewer distractions.
Even though my daughter is only a toddler, I meditate with her every day. For 5 to 10 minutes we sit in a quiet place and focus on our breaths. She also knows it helps to keep her eyes closed during this time. It’s not perfect yet since she’s moving around too much, and gets up, too, but we’re on the right track.
Meditation teaches us mindfulness. It’s a practice that brings calmness and clarity to our lives. And, when your mind is clear and calm, you’ll be able to focus better. By bringing your child back to the present moment, they learn to focus on the task at hand.
Mastering mediation is simple and can be done by anyone no matter how old or young they are. Start by finding a quiet spot and sitting comfortably. Close your eyes and bring your attention to your breath. Let your child know if they get distracted all they have to do is listen to their breath or feel it.
4. Be Clear with Instructions
Always make sure your children know what it is they need to do. Keep the instructions simple and clear. The younger the child is the less instructions a task or activity should have. You must also be aware of a child’s natural attention span. You can’t expect your toddler to focus for more than 10 to 15 minutes on an activity.
I find it helps to have a daily routine for my daughter. She knows what she needs to do when and what to expect. In this way, she can follow instructions and complete them which gives her immense pride in having achieved something.
5. Channel Your Inner Resourcefulness
Don’t underestimate your own resources! Learning a skill is often something you and I innately have but we’ve lost track of it somewhere down the line. By relying on your own resources, you’ll rediscover the tools and methods of focusing.
Tapping into your own resourcefulness also means you open up your mind to the many different ways of teaching your kid to focus.
A willingness to grow and develop your child is all you need to teach them to focus.
Ideas to Focus Kids During COVID-19
If you’re still wondering what you can do with your kids during an enforced stay at home and you want to improve their focus, then read on as I share some of my own ideas.
- Cooking: Being in the kitchen entails following clear instructions and staying focused if you want to present a delicious meal. Involve your kids and give them set tasks to do such as reading out the recipe to you (if they’re old enough), handing kitchen utensils to you when you ask for them, or measuring out ingredients. Let them learn to prepare their own favorite meals.
- Artistic activities: Help your children learn how to draw or give them a picture to color in without going over any lines. Coloring books have been used for years to keep children occupied and focused on one activity.
- Clean out the cupboards: Get the kids involved in cleaning out the kitchen cupboards or your wardrobe. Make it fun and set little challenges so they can focus on the task. Set up separate boxes for recycling, throw away or give to charity and tell your kids to make sure they put the right items in the right box.
- Games: Bring in some competition and you’ll have your kids focused for hours! The higher the stakes the more they’ll concentrate.
- Spend time in nature: Outdoor activities in nature is one way of channeling your child’s attention span. They learn to be inquisitive and to ask questions.
COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere fast so as a father I’m using it as an opportunity to develop my daughter’s life skills of which focusing is one of them. One of the greatest gifts any parent can give their child is their attention. And, this pandemic is giving us the time and space to pay attention to our kids and family. Use it wisely.