Teaching Teens Focus in an Ever-Distracting World
By Tyler Jacobson
We live in a world full of distractions. At any given time, there are plenty of things clamoring for our attention- from work, our families, friends, the news to so many others.
Adults are not the only ones going through this. Kids these days are being exposed to distractions from an early age. We give them toys, teach them games or use the TV, phones, tablets, etc, to grab their attention. While our intentions might be noble, the results are definitely not.
Without the necessary intervention, distracted kids eventually carry these patterns with them into their teen years. They end up with short attention spans and find it difficult to concentrate and stay on task, especially if those tasks don’t interest them. Instead, they use various distractions to escape their reality, even if it’s for a short time. Eventually, these distractions could end up becoming addictions that are hard to break. For instance, teens who are used to relying on the internet to distract them from uncomfortable or boring situations can end up addicted to it.
What’s the big deal you ask? Well, paying attention to what we are doing is crucial to being productive and seeing tasks through to the end. Sometimes we need to focus on stuff which might seem boring such as house chores, some tasks at work, homework, etc. Kids and teens need to learn how to focus in order to do well in school or whatever else they set out to do and constant distractions interfere with this.
Reasons Teens Struggle to Focus
There are a number of reasons why teens might find it hard to concentrate on whatever they are doing. These include:
- Boredom and lack of interest in the task at hand.
- Lack of adequate sleep.
- Lack of organization.
- Tasks that are too difficult.
- Poor nutrition leading to low energy and problems with concentration.
- Personal problems either at school or at home.
- Learning difficulties like dyslexia or ADHD.
When dealing with a teen who has problems concentrating, it’s important to identify the underlying cause. This makes it easy to find a suitable solution to the problem.
Teaching Teens to Stay on Task
Here are 5 strategies you can use on your scatterbrained teen to help them improve their focus:
- Doing one thing at a time.
Teens are just as guilty as the rest of us when it comes to multitasking. We think that we’re getting a lot of things done at the same time when in reality, we are just reducing our productivity. Teach your teen to tackle one thing at a time instead of juggling several tasks at once and their productivity will improve.
- Breaking down tasks.
Large projects or assignments can be intimidating for most teens. Trying to tackle everything at the same time eventually leads to overwhelm and lack of concentration. To curb this, help your teen learn how to break down large assignments into smaller, more manageable ones. This way, they get a clear idea of what needs to be done. Additionally, the sense of accomplishment that comes with ticking off smaller tasks can boost their motivation to get even more done.
- Taking breathers.
Trying to focus on something for long stretches without taking a break can actually reduce productivity. Your teen might find it easier to concentrate if they include some breaks as they work. For instance, they could work for half an hour and take a 5-10 minute break to stretch their legs or grab some water. It’s also advisable to schedule some daily relaxation time to give your teen’s mind and body some much-needed rest.
- Exercising the body and mind.
You can’t ignore the important role played by both diet and fitness when it comes to focusing the mind. Exercising and moving the body help in the production of hormones that aid in relaxation so that your teen can better focus and absorb material when needed. Encourage your teen to engage in different sports activities or to just spend time walking outdoors to stimulate their mind before settling down with schoolwork. In addition, ensure that they get a balanced nutritional diet to fuel their brains and help them concentrate on their studies.
- Turning off screens and cell phones.
Finally, in order for your teen to concentrate on their schoolwork, they need to learn how to avoid distractions, especially screens and cell phones. Whenever the screen lights up with an incoming notification, the temptation to take a peek can lead your teen to waste valuable hours which would have been better spent studying. To avoid this, ask them to switch off their devices when studying and give them a dedicated workspace that’s far from distractions like the TV.
It’s hard to maintain focus when living in an ever-distracted world but with a little practice, your teen can master the skills needed to consistently focus and stay on task.
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