Focus Challenged Hacks For Kids

What are your hacks for helping kids with a slightly "above average" lack of focus? At times my six year old girl tends to let herself get a bit carried away when distracted or excited during play time.


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  • So, this may sound a little counter-productive because it involves TV, but there is a show on PBS called "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood" (it's a modern day Mr. Roger's, for those of us who remember him) and each show contains a theme and a song that goes with that theme, whether it be cleaning up, going to bed, using the potty.  It might be a little too young for a six year old, but my three year old loves it and the techniques will still work, I think.  There was an episode on dealing with getting mad, with a song and a process, or tool, for kids to get past that "mad" state.  The song goes "When you feels so mad that you want to roar, take a deep breath, and count to four", then the characters take a deep breath, put their hand up in the air and bring their hand down in four steps as they count.  By the time they are done, they are through that "mad" moment and can process again.  My daughter uses that on her own as she feels the need to, which is a great technique for her and a huge red flag for us as parents in case we don't notice how worked up she is getting. so we can step in if needed.


     


    There was recently an episode that specifically dealt with getting excited in the way you describe and it has similar song that involves counting again to calm yourself down. 


     


    There are many more.  I'm not an enormous advocate of television, but these tools have turned into really great methods for us to work with our daughter and they've provided her tools that empower her to understand that she can take control of her emotions (not that she always opts to, but she is only three) her behavior, and her world. 


     


    We did help train her a bit by watching the show with her and then, when a similar situation arose in real life, singing the song and having her remember the show.  She caught on quick though and does it largely on her own now.  I think that kids, in general, like the empowerment.  It's not always clear how we can teach kids to process strong emotions, but this has worked for us.


     


    We don't use them all but we regularly use the songs/messages from the episodes on:  being helpful, sharing, leaving someplace when they don't want to go, trying new foods, using the potty, dealing with anger, being overexcited (focus), and probably a few more that I'm not recalling.


     


    It's not a quick fix, but if you are willing to sing songs with your kids and watch a few of the shows to get them to recall the tools int he right situations, in my experience with one child, they catch on fast.  We've got two more now, so I'll have an n=3 in a couple more years. 


     


    This complements my theory that much of early childhood angst is frustration because their brain is developing faster than their body or emotional capabilities.  So they "want" things earlier than they can communicate "I want "X"." which teaching baby signs can help with, because they can control their arms and hands earlier and better than their language.  Similarly, they want to control their emotions and have a greater say in their existence, but they don't have the experience and tools to really understand the emotions or even get them to a place where they can do something besides react to them.  We've found that these songs and tools give her some tools to, at least, get the emotions to a place where they aren't driving her behavior, even if she can't rationalize them or really understand them.   I don't expect that my daughter is going to be reaching profound insights on her emotional state any time soon, but I know that she uses the tools on her own, even when we aren't there, so she must see a value in them.


     


    It's not really a hack, in that it's not a shortcut or a switch you can flip, but it works for us.  Maybe it will work, or does already work, for others.  We try to find as many ways as we can to empower our daughter and give her choices, so she has as much control of her own existance as she, safely and prudently, can have.  Contrary to what some might think, giving her control and choices in some areas seems to make her more accepting and understanding when it comes to areas where she just has to do what we say.


     


    There are many more.  I'm not an enormous advocate of television, but these tools have turned into really great methods for us to work with our daughter and they've provided her tools that empower her to understand that she can take control of her emotions (not that she always opts to, but she is only three) her behavior, and her world. 


     


    We did help train her a bit by watching the show with her and then, when a similar situation arose in real life, singing the song and having her remember the show.  She caught on quick though and does it largely on her own now.  I think that kids, in general, like the empowerment.  It's not always clear how we can teach kids to process strong emotions, but this has worked for us.


     


    We don't use them all but we regularly use the songs/messages from the episodes on:  being helpful, sharing, leaving someplace when they don't want to go, trying new foods, using the potty, dealing with anger, being overexcited (focus), and probably a few more that I'm not recalling.


     


    It's not a quick fix, but if you are willing to sing songs with your kids and watch a few of the shows to get them to recall the tools int he right situations, in my experience with one child, they catch on fast.  We've got two more now, so I'll have an n=3 in a couple more years. 


     


    This complements my theory that much of early childhood angst is frustration because their brain is developing faster than their body or emotional capabilities.  So they "want" things earlier than they can communicate "I want "X"." which teaching baby signs can help with, becuase they can control their arms and hands earlier and better than their language.  Similarly, they want to control their emotions and have a greater say in their existence, but they don't have the experience and tools to really understand the emotions or even get them to a place where they can do something besides react to them.  We've found that these songs and tools give her some tools to, at least, get the emotions to a place where they aren't driving her behavior, even if she can't rationalize them or really understand them.   I don't expect that my daughter is going to be reaching profound insights on her emotional state any time soon, but I know that she uses the tools on her own, even when we aren't there, so she must see a value in them.


     


    It's not really a hack, in that it's not a shortcut or a switch you can flip, but it works for us.  Maybe it will work, or does alreayd work, for others.  We try to find as many ways as we can to empower our daughter and give her choices, so she has as much control of her own existance as she, safely and prudently, can have.  Contrary to what some might think, giving her control and choices in some areas seems to make her more accepting and understanding when it comes to areas where she just has to do what we say.

     


  • My daughter was just diagnosed with ADHD.  I'd read that ADHD is related to low HRV (below) so we've been doing the emWave every night and making a gratitude list - I'm seeing improvement in her HRV but it is still early.  Can't hurt. 


     


    http://www.psynetresearch.org/uploads/7/5/8/1/7581337/heart_rate_variability_in_psychiatric_disorders.pdf


    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19700800


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