We all have poor attention days, those days when we can’t think clearly and can’t concentrate. When this happens, we put it down to something we have done. It may be excessive alcohol, poor sleep, poor diet or some other reason. We then take some sort of action to get ourselves back on track.
When our children are having trouble concentrating in class, or holding their attention, we often approach it differently, particularly if these issues become more of a long-term issue. Our children don’t have the skills to identify the reason for their lack of attention, and therefore they don’t know what to do about it. They may feel a bit off and take no steps to improve the brain fog because they rely on us to help them. They don’t know how to improve their attention. The issue can worsen and remain over time.
We mightn’t know there’s an issue with their attention until months, or even years have passed. We don’t take any steps to improve their brain health, because we’re unaware that there are the beginnings of brain fog and a worsening state of health. We often don’t think to help them by supporting their health with interventions such as diet, exercise, meditation and improving their sleep. We don’t think to model better thoughts, behaviours and actions.
Then comes a day when we realise there is a problem with attention. It may come to our attention from a teacher at school. It can be a very stressful situation filled with a lot of worry and helplessness. We try to help by getting on their back about their lack of concentration. We urge them to try harder. We may hire personal tutors, enrol them in catch up classes or pay to send them to a better school. We think we need to teach them harder. If they aren’t learning fast enough, spend more time teaching. Be more disciplined. We use rewards and consequences in an attempt to motivate them. If that doesn’t work, we increase the consequences.
We try to control them into improving. But what if they can’t? What if they don’t have to skills to meet your expectations? What if their lack of concentration out of their control? If they simply can’t improve through the standard approach, you risk creating stress in them. You risk creating a bad feeling between you and your child, and you may create anxiety in them.
Our usual next step is to feel frustration and helplessness. Then in an act of desperation, we medicate. We often medicate without also trying to support their health and wellbeing. It’s easy to see when we are removed from the worry and stress of the situation, that our child’s attention has a lot to do with how well they feel. We know that to achieve wellness, we need to support our child’s body and brain with nutrients, exercise, mindfulness, sleep and other lifestyle improvements, yet many parents don’t make any lifestyle changes at all. Many expect a tablet to do all the work. A tablet will address a pathway in the body that it’s designed to affect, but it will rarely address the body as a whole.
It’s important to remember how our state of health affects our attention. We have all experienced this. We must also acknowledge that our children’s state of health affects their attention too.