How to Help Your Child Build Focus and Attention

Uncategorized Mar 17, 2019

I have heard people say that telling an ADHD child to just focus harder is like telling a hearing impaired child to listen harder.    And, in many ways,  I agree with that statement.  On the other hand, I don’t think that we should just work from the belief there is nothing that can be done to help them focus.   

You can absolutely learn to develop focus.   Does that mean that inattentiveness will cease to be a problem?   No.   The ADHD brain is what we call interest driven rather than importance driven.    So, it is not that ADHDers can’t focus, it is that they focus on what is interesting them at the moment, and not necessarily on what they need to focus on.   In fact, you have probably seen your ADHD child hyperfocus on something and it is almost as if they are in another world and do not even know you exist when you talk to them when they are hyper-focusing.    But, we can help children learn to focus on things that are not quite as appealing in several ways.  

  1. Build the amount of time they focus in a session over time.   For instance, try a pomodoro timer app.   These allow you to break study time into short intervals that are followed by a short break.   After a certain number of intervals are completed, a long break occurs.   Gradually, the intervals become longer.   
  2. Make it a game.   Have your child read a page from a book out loud.  Tell them you are deliberately going to try to distract them but their job is to tune you out and not let you.   Give them points for every page they get through without looking up.   Then, when they get so many points, they earn the opportunity to try to distract you.    

3.  Play games such as Memory, Red Light, Green Light, Simon Says, hand clapping games like Miss Mary Mac   

I also suggest using essential oils and scented candles during homework and study time.   Our strongest memories are around scents, so if the same scent is always present during homework and study time the brain will eventually make a connection that when that scent is present, it is time to focus and will find a way to make that happen.


The Mission Life Success cognitive training programs incorporate focus and attention building into most activities, and it is amazing to watch even the most distractible kids learn to focus on difficult tasks.   

Now does that mean that they will never be distracted?  Or that there will never be another homework battle?  No.  But, when a child places importance on a task, and knows that they have the ability to focus when they need to, they can draw on those skills.   This makes a huge difference, especially when they reach high school and college years.   They will find ways to create interest or urgency in undesirable tasks so that their interest based brain will be able to focus.   

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