Those who work with children or parents with large families come to quickly learn is that all children are different. Children display as many different personalities as there are children. Some have personalities that are considered by parents/caregivers as friendly, sociable and outgoing. They are affectionate, lovable and even-tempered. Some may be shy, cautious when dealing with new situations even stubborn.
Some children are unable to maintain focus on any activity for more than a few seconds. These children are said to have short attention spans. Children with short attention spans generally move from one activity to the next in the blink of an eye. Many such children also seem to have boundless energy, cannot seem able to sit still and ultimately viewed as “hyperactive”.
A child’s ability to focus is a gradual developmental process increasing as the child grows in age. Parents/Caregivers are often frustrated by children with short attention spans. If they cannot pay attention for at least fifteen to twenty minutes by their fifth birthday, problems present themselves for the child. He/She will generally experience problems in pre-school or in kindergarten.
The majority of parents/caregivers are relieved to learn that their very active child will gradually develop the ability to focus and pay attention. Waiting can be frustrating when childhood maturation, with respect to their attention span, does not appear right at five years of age. Calls for early testing and child comparisons with her/his siblings or peers can lead to further parental anxiety, fears and stressors that negatively affect the child. Rather than resort to anxiety and fears document the child’s daily behavioral and social activities. Should a child’s behavior and social activities not demonstrate maturity, it is recommended a formal evaluation be conducted as soon as possible to determine what steps, if any, need to be taken.
For parents/caregivers whose child seems to have a short attention span, the following is suggested:
• Don’t blame yourself—It is not a parent’s/caregiver’s fault. Each child is different. To blame yourself or one’s spouse is fruitless. Blame only depletes the parent’s/caregiver’s mental health and adversely affects the child’s academic, behavioral and social progress.
• Remember routines are important—It is so for all children and especially so for children with short attention spans.
• Work with the child—Note behavioral and activity levels and patterns. Develop activities to help them make transitions. Transitions are difficult for hyperactive children. Avoid strenuous physical activities before putting them to bed.
• Hyperactive children have difficulty focusing—It is suggested that parents/caregivers not overload a hyperactive child’s environment. Resist allowing a hyperactive child to wander from one activity to another. Develop structure with a quiet area can be helpful.
• Establish boundaries and limits—Children with hyperactivity are likely to get in trouble. As with all children, boundaries and limits must be established and immediately dealt with as they occur. Adverse behaviors must be handled quickly, in a firm tone of voice, with little or no physical punishment. Any limits must be followed by verbal and physical displays of unconditional love and affection.
• Use good judgment—Remain calm and thoughtful when dealing a child who displays hyperactivity. Schedule times for you. This is not being selfish. Every parent/caregiver needs time to relax, refresh and enjoy life as well when working with a hyperactive child.