With the start of the new school year upon us, it is time to think about shopping for new clothes and school supplies; plan after school programs and therapy sessions; and so much more! Some children dread doing their homework because they can’t focus or don’t like the subject. Here are some tips to help you plan how to assist your child with any focusing concerns. Help them start the school year off right!!

Tip #1 – Promote Organization. Some children benefit from visually seeing what is expected of them. Creating to do lists (with pictures or words) when the child comes home from school or the night before, will help them put everything in order and break down large overwhelming tasks into smaller and more manageable tasks.

Tip #2 – Set Rules for Homework Time. It is important to establish all rules before homework time. Create a fun and colorful poster over the summer with all the rules. Work with your child to figure out the best and most suitable rules. Encourage him or her to speak their mind but remind them that you are the adult and that you will make the final decision. Sometimes it can be hard but don’t forget to stick to your guns!! Be flexible to changing rules if you notice that something is not working. Be sure to communicate rules to ALL caregivers (ex: grandparents, babysitters etc).

Tip #3 – Set a specific quiet homework place. Make sure to find a nice quiet place for your child to do his or her homework. If they share a room with their sibling, make sure they can do their homework with no other children around. It is best to have minimal distraction and clutter. Before school starts, you may want to purchase different size containers and other things to better organize your child’s desk or homework area.

Tip #4 – No Technology Allowed. Make sure that ALL cell phones, televisions, computers, iPads etc. are put away when your child starts to do their homework. If other people are watching television, make sure your child is far away as possible or ask the person to lower the volume or go into another room. If your child needs technology for his or her homework, make sure you monitor their time with the device. Depending on the child, you may want to offer technology time AFTER they have finished ALL of their homework.

Tip #5 – Offer Praise/Reinforcement. After a long tiring day, it is important to try and have patience with your son or daughter as they get through their homework. Do not yell at child when he or she is not focusing and completing task. The constant negative energy can decrease your child’s motivation and have a negative effect on his or her self-esteem. Remember – children love compliments!! Make sure to ALSO complement and offer praise when he or she DOES pay attention and completes a task. This positive energy will hopefully increase their motivation. Make your compliment specific. For example, “Good job” versus “I am so proud of you for finishing your math homework!!” Children also respond well to positive reinforcement but parents have to make sure to prevent bribery. Avoid materialistic, monetary, or food rewards. Focus on rewards such as spending time together or weekly/monthly goals. There are different iPad apps that will help you better manage your son or daughter’s behavior.

Tip #6 – Healthy Lifestyle. A healthy kid approved diet can be hard to find. It is important to make sure that your son or daughter is getting a mixed diet of carbohydrates, proteins, fruits and vegetables. A snack that has too much sugar can make the child too hyper and too many carbohydrates can make your son or daughter very tired. There are a variety of different healthy and gluten-free snack options for children. Also, remember that plenty of fluids and sleep is also important. The National Sleep Foundation recommends a certain amount of sleep for a child depending on his or her age.

Tip #7 – Breaks. Children are often very over-scheduled, so it is important for them to have a relaxing break before homework and/or between completing assignments. Only you know your child’s temperament and focus ability, so you can decide when the downtime is appropriate. Offer few options as to what your son or daughter is allowed to do during that relaxing time. For example, moving around, drinking water, having a quick snack, and/or going to the bathroom. Make sure to remind them that the point of the break is to relax NOT to get distracted by starting to a new activity. If your child seems anxious, it may help to incorporate breathing exercises during the breaks. Slow, steady, and from the diaphragm. Helps clear their anxious mind, which may be causing them to have difficulty with concentrating or avoiding the task. There are different iPad apps that focus on calming and relaxing children through breathing exercises, meditation, and practicing mindfulness.

Tip #8 – Spending Time Outdoors. Give them time to be active before starting their homework. Running, walking, and jumping helps your child get out any energy inner stimulation that they may have built up throughout the day. Engaging with nature can also be very soothing. Moving the body helps stimulate the brain to focus and better concentrate. Examples of possible activities: walking home, going to the park, doing chores, or participating in sports teams.

Tip #9 – Do Grownup Homework. If you can, it may be helpful to set a good example for your child. While they are doing their homework, sit with them and focus on your grown-up homework. For example, office work, reading, crossword, sudoku puzzles, paying bills, or organizing your mail. Remember do not use any electronics (phone, iPad, and computer) or anything else that can be distracting to your child.

Tip #10 – Ask Child’s Teachers for Tips. Your child spends 7-8 hours per day with his or her teacher and other staff members. It may be helpful to get their insights, observations, and suggestions on different ways to help your child focus better. Do not talk to your child’s teacher at pick up or drop off. He or she is too busy with their other responsibilities. They don’t have the time to give you their full attention. Schedule a meeting with them or contact them via email and try to work together on joint home and classroom focus goals for your child. Remember to be open to possible criticism and new ideas!

Frances Victory, Ph.D., C.P.C., is a Developmental Psychologist, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Speaker, and Certified Life Coach at Victory Coaching LLC. For more information about her services, please check out her website: www.drvictorycoaching.com. She can also be reached at victory.frances@gmail.com.