7 Ways to Help an Unfocused Child Focus on Homework

A 5 minute homework assignment can take us over an hour to complete. If we aren’t dealing with a meltdown because we don’t want to do homework, then we are usually dealing with silliness and being distracted. Just like at homework time today, while working on 4×2, instead of counting the bears to figure out the answer, my son decides to rearrange all of the bears to make a sword. Honestly, I’d take the silliness and being distracted over the meltdowns any day.  However, having a distracted child at homework time can be just as frustrating, especially when you also have therapy, dinner, bath, and a 30 minute bedtime routine with only two hours.

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Now I’m not saying I have all of the answers. What works for us, will not work for everyone. And I can’t say that it is always possible to follow all of these rules. But after many trials and errors, homework time is finally at the point where it is a little more enjoyable and even better, less time consuming. If you and your child are still struggling at homework time, these homework tips for a distracted child might make homework time less of a battle.

Assess their mood.

Homework is homework and it has to be done. However, if I pick my son up and he is not regulated and having melt downs, the last thing I’m going to do is have him sit down and do his homework. We will work on getting him regulated through different activities and exercises and if that happens that day and there is time left for homework then great. If not, then we will get it done another day. Because let’s face it, if our children are melting down, they aren’t going to do their homework. But if they are having a good day, focused and ready to work, I try to get as much homework done that we can.

Create a schedule that works for you and your child.

Some kids might do better with a little bit of a sensory break or relaxation time before starting homework. Others might need to get started on homework as soon as they get home. As for us, my son tends to have an easier time accepting homework time if he does it as soon as we get home. He does not like to be in the middle of doing something fun and having to stop to start on his homework. Whatever schedule works best for your child, try to stick to it as much as possible, and write it down so it is visible to your child.

Keep distractions to a minimum.

I’m not going to say eliminate all distractions because honestly, a kid that has a hard time focusing can find a distraction anywhere. However, do try to keep it as distraction free as possible. Turn off any background noises or get them some noise canceling headphones and clear the homework area of all things except for the homework materials. I suggest just putting one homework assignment in front of them at a time.

Set up a homework center.

Whether your child has a desk in their room or sit at the kitchen table, make sure they are doing their homework in the same place every day. That way when you tell them it’s time to do homework, they aren’t having to guess about where it’s being done at that day.

Give them a snack.

I don’t know about your kids, but I’m guessing they probably come home starving like mine do. And I don’t know about you but when I’m hungry, that’s about all I can think about. So I’m not expecting my kids to focus on homework when they are hungry. Oh…and as hard as it might be to keep their hands out of the candy jar, try to get them to eat something healthy.

Talk with them about their day before starting homework.

Do your kids have a lot to tell you about their day or do they sum it up to “I played” like my son does? Regardless, ask them about their day and listen to what all happened before asking them to start their homework. Because if something really exciting did happen to them that day, you know they aren’t going to be able wait until after they finished their homework to tell you, and they shouldn’t have to.

Be present.

Maybe you might have to sit right by your child and hold their hand while they complete their homework. Maybe you just need to be in the same room. Maybe you only have to be within earshot. Maybe you just have to check in on them. By being present with your child while they are doing homework, you can help redirect them if they become sidetracked and it will probably also help them feel more confident.

Not all of our days are perfect. Sometimes life happens and our schedule gets thrown out the window. But on the days that we can follow our schedule and stick to these steps, homework time has gone from taking over an hour to taking less than 30 minutes. Hopefully, these tips will help you and your distracted child find homework time a little more enjoyable and less time consuming too! And I’d love to hear if there is anything else that you do to help your distracted child.