I want to pick up again on our series in how caregivers of children can effectively deal with some of their more challenging temperamental behaviors. A child who is easily distracted and struggles to stay focused on almost any activity can be a struggle for caregivers to assist. There are strategies to help engage children with high or low distractability.
Engaging children who are easily distracted or over-focused
A helpful list of strategies for children with high distractibility
- Help the child concentrate by joining her in an activity. Play can be an excellent way to encourage concentration, especially in the company of an interested parent or caregiver.
- For infants and young children, provide a small, enclosed space as a play area with only a very few toys at one time.
- Provide a table, a chair and a place to enjoy an activity. Insist on some concentrated time for doing some activities that the child is less interested in.
- Praise task completion and concentration.
- Have fun with the child to build up the relationship and to get her attention.
- Make sure the child understands instructions and directions.
- Join in the task and make yourself an integral part of the activity so they have to ask, for example, for some puzzle pieces.
- Eliminate distracting stimuli as much as possible.
- Introduce something that is compelling for the child to do.
- Give the child periodic breaks, whether on long automobile trips or while doing homework.
- Insist that small tasks are completed by using firm structures and limits.
- Break bigger tasks up into small parts and praise success for each, and give breaks if necessary.
For children with low distractability
- Make sure the child hears instructions to stop an activity.
- Provide warnings when an activity must be stopped.
- Make sure that requests to do something or to follow through on a plan are given clearly and when the child is not concentrating on something else.
- Be aware if a child is isolating him or herself constantly in order to be alone to do something. Make sure social activities are planned and the child is included.
With just a few strategies, children who have either high or low distractability can be encouraged to stay on task and achieve some very simple goals. It is important to help our children with these issues discover how to stay focused so they can sense their own success and growth. They will love the results.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network
Source: Information taken from Pathways to Competence, Encouraging Healthy Social and Emotional Development in Young Children, Second Edition by Sarah Landy, pp 54-55.