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child concentration problems

What are the reasons for concentration problems for kids in schoolwork?

Written by Shelley Dermody

The world has become very fast-paced these days and it can often be difficult to keep up and just do all the things that we need to do. Couple this with the pandemic, exam stress, and a constant need to make life decisions at such a young age and we can start to understand why so many young people may be more than a little distracted. Many parents and educators want children to succeed in everything they do but for us to assist them, we need to be able to understand what might be causing these distractions. Once we know and understand the problems and frustrations with child concentration problems, then we can begin to help. Here, we will discuss these issues and suggest some solutions that educators and parents can use in their classrooms or at home.



Much of the work that is assigned to students must be completed using technology. This is particularly the case with older secondary students who may have to type their work or complete research projects online, which also happens to be the place where they may seek entertainment. It can therefore be easy to become distracted and start to play around on social media, watch videos, play games, etc., but by encouraging young people to set parameters and timeframes, we may help them to stay focused. Some examples of concentration exercises for children could be to ask them to focus on a task for 30-45 minutes at a time and then take a break. This can be especially effective for students who have difficulty concentrating while reading. Also, ask them to try to find a hard copy of the task that they need to complete, for example reading the book version so they can make notes in the margin. Ask them to develop their study skills by having them paraphrase or summarise what they have just read. And above all, schedule “relaxation time” vs study time as this is a highly beneficial skill for people of all ages to master and can also help reduce their anxiety about school and schoolwork.  With younger students, games like Simon Says or asking them to repeat instructions back to you in a fun way can help maintain students’ concentration. You can check their listening skills and keep them on their toes by asking them “what do we have to do?” at random or “how many minutes do we have to complete the task?”.

Long hours and Pressure

Our desire for students to succeed can harm some children. Yes, we would like them to acquire new skills. Yes, we would like them to be dynamic learners. Yes, we would like them to study extracurricular activities, do sports or have hobbies, but are we making enough time for them to be kids?  Are we adding to them feeling overwhelmed when we could eliminate some of the burdens by looking at their schedule realistically? We can have a conversation with them about how to prioritize their studies or what skills/activities they believe are the best for them. We can ask them to make time for other things like self-care, taking some fresh air, taking breaks, and getting enough sleep and by stating of the importance of sleep we can set them up for success. Lack of sleep affects people’s ability to focus and concentrate for periods (Peri, 2021). These are all fundamental skills and practices that young people can embrace and master at an early age and are equally important for creating well-rounded, productive and above all happy adults.

Relevance and personalization

Relevance and personalisation

Educators are famous for being quite stressed and having limited time, this can mean that we become a little less flexible when it comes to class preparation even though we know that there is no “one” student.  Perhaps you have seen some of the famous memes online that make fun of the fact that after a certain age, in real life, we rarely use certain skills that are taught in our schools, yet we were told by our teachers that these would be important in the future. Young students too are aware of this relevance, and this can have a real impact on how motivated students are about certain topics and subjects. However, by rephrasing or modeling topics or subjects, we can make these relevant to students.
We can include topics that will interest them, we can learn about their likes and dislikes and their lives and use personalization to present these topics to them.

Attention Problems

Some students may simply find it hard to focus on certain types of activities for long periods. This could relate to an undiagnosed condition, emotional, social, environmental, or just the task at hand.  Therefore, it is important to understand what your students/children are going through. If they are experiencing problems, give them some time, don’t be impatient with them, try to be understanding. However, if these attention problems seem to be more of a permanent thing, you may find that they are experiencing an attention-deficient problem (Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which can be life-impacting disorders that many people of all ages and walks of life suffer from. The prevalence of ADD and ADHD is estimated to be between 5 and 11% (Brody, [N, D]). If you notice that your student/child seems easily distracted, has difficulty following directions, difficulty staying on task, is forgetful, loses personal items such as keys or books, doesn’t pay attention to details, has problems staying organized, and has a short attention span” (Lockhart, 20021) you may wish to seek some help with ways to make their learning more accessible. The importance of recognizing these issues early on cannot be overstated as continuing without a diagnosis can negatively affect children’s self-esteem and impact their sense of self.

albert einstein

So, will students still be able to succeed even if they have concentration problems? The simple answer is, yes. I am sure you have heard of Albert Einstein, who while devised the theory of relativity and consequently revolutionized the way that we see space, time, gravity, and the universe, was also a famously “bad” student, failed his 11-plus (the exam to gain entry to secondary school), and many have suggested that he too had some form of attention deficit disorder.  Therefore, it can be suggested that if one of the most brilliant minds can go on to achieve everything that he did, with help and coping mechanism, so too can your children and students.

Shelley Dermody is a facilitator at Shiminly.

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Chris is from Devon, in the south of England. He has been teaching English as a foreign language for over six years and has taught in China, the UK, Hungary and Spain. He has a background in Music and studied Composition at the RSAMD in Glasgow, Trinity Laban in London and at the University of York. After finishing his master’s at York, he travelled to China to teach and fell in love with it. He has been teaching ever since.

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