5 Natural Ways to Increase Concentration & Focus in ADHD Kids

"If you notice your child is having prolonged difficulty and consistently encountering academic and social difficulties, then you may need to rule out an attention disorder"
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Distractibility, forgetfulness, and procrastination are all common traits of inattentive ADHD in kids. What might look like daydreaming or laziness to parents and teachers could actually be a sign of an attention disorder that requires, well, attention. 

While new research continues to emerge about how and why ADHD manifests, neuroimaging has proven there are key differences in the brains of children and teens with ADHD, especially when it comes to the sections that control executive function skills.1 These skills facilitate the behaviors required to plan and achieve goals and include paying attention, strategizing, and managing one’s time. Many parents turn to medication to ease ADHD symptoms and improve concentration and focus, but there are additional ways to offer support, whether your child is taking medication or not. Try these five easy ways to help increase your child or teen’s focus and concentration so they can thrive at school and at home. When used in combination with healthy lifestyle habits like eating well, getting adequate sleep, controlling screen time, and practicing mindfulness, your child will have a long-term plan for success.   

How to Spot ADHD in School-Aged Children & Teens

Before diving into tips and tricks to help your child better focus, it’s important to note that many youngsters have trouble concentrating from time to time. Being distracted or forgetful on occasion does not necessarily mean your child has ADHD. But if you notice your child is having prolonged difficulty and consistently encountering academic and social difficulties, then you may need to rule out an attention disorder.  

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms of inattentive ADHD are often missed by parents, teachers, and medical professionals, so that kids with ADHD don’t get the support they need. This commonly leads to frustration at school, apathy, and shame that can have devastating effects on their self-esteem. If your child or teen shows a number of the following ADHD symptoms and they appear at home and at school, it may be time to seek support.

Common ADHD symptoms in school-aged children and teens: 

  • Lack of focus, boredom
  • Disorganization
  • Excitability or hyperactivity
  • Excessive talking
  • Excessive movement
  • Restlessness and inability to relax
  • Trouble waiting their turn
  • Distractibility 
  • Trouble following instructions
  • Forgetfulness
  • Frequent mistakes school
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Withdrawal from people or activities
  • Fear of rejection

1. Encourage Breaks 

When a child or teen with ADHD has to sit for prolonged periods of time, it can feel like torture. Try to think of the executive function system as a battery. Because your child has to put in so much effort and energy to focus, their battery runs out quickly and requires frequent recharges. Instead of waiting until your child is extremely frustrated or stressed out from trying to focus, encourage breaks so they can get up and have a stretch, take a walk, have a snack, or do anything else that recharges their battery. 

Try this:

For younger children: Clinical psychologist and ADHD specialist Dr. Russell Barkley has advised parents and teachers to try the “10-3” Rule, in which difficult work should be limited to 10 minutes followed by a three-minute exercise break, which may be more suitable for younger kids.2 

For teens: Older kids would probably benefit more from the Pomodoro Technique in which they work continuously for 25 minutes and then take a five-minute break.3  

2. Stick to a Routine

Kids with ADHD need routines to manage their day efficiently. When they know what’s coming next, they have time to prepare for transitions and there’s no stress with having to adjust to anything unexpected. Start mornings with a relaxing routine that sets a calm tone for the day, which also means encouraging your child to wake up at the same time every morning. Also try to ensure that homework happens at the same time in the same place every day. Just like mornings, aim to have a relaxing bedtime routine with a set bedtime and no screens before bed. Studies show that families that implement routines report significantly fewer externalizing behaviors of ADHD, which means less outbursts and less impulsive behavior.4

Try this:

For younger children: Younger kids may need more support in sticking to routines. This might mean helping them get up and get ready in the morning and ensuring they get to bed on time. Simple chores like setting the dinner table or unpacking the dishwasher can also help them become more responsible.

For teens: Teens may not need as much guidance with simple routines like getting ready in the morning, but you may help them establish a wind-down routine at home so they get the rest they need. Chores can also be a little more sophisticated, such as taking charge of their own laundry or even helping to prepare dinner one night a week or more. 

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3. Practice Deep Breathing 

Whether your child or teen is being distracted by the thoughts in their mind or the sounds in the room, there’s one reliable constant you can always bring their attention back to: their breath. Some studies show that mindfulness practices like deep breathing exercises can help balance the autonomic nervous system by delivering more oxygen to the brain. This allows people with ADHD to become more focused and relaxed. Breathing exercises are also useful if your child struggles with anxiety in addition to ADHD.5  

Try this:

For younger children: If you say the words “mindful breathing” to your eight or nine-year-old, you’re likely to get a puzzled look in return. But what about “tongue tube” (in which you curl your tongue into a straw or tube and suck in cool air) or “lion’s breath” (in which you stick out your tongue and exhale forcefully)? Finding fun names for simple breathing techniques is a great motivator for younger kids. 

For teens: While younger children might want you to practice breathing exercises with them, it’s likely your teen will want some independence in honing their mindfulness skills. Equipping them with a mindfulness app can help them practice a variety of techniques without being completely on their own.

4. Give Them an Outlet for Physical and Emotional Expression

A child with ADHD can often have so much trapped energy, they’ll fidget, squirm, act impulsively, and perhaps get angry if told to sit still. Kids with ADHD also tend to be more sensitive and have issues with emotional regulation, leading them to feel ashamed if they cry too easily or have an outburst. Finding appropriate outlets for their physical and emotional expression is a way to channel all of this trapped energy and emotions into something productive. This might mean joining a sports team, picking up a paintbrush, learning to play an instrument, or pursuing another extracurricular activity that interests them. If your child finds something they’re passionate about, they may even experience hyperfocus, a phenomenon which allows them to spend a long time on a task without disruption.

Try this: 

For younger children: Younger children may still be figuring out what interests them, leading them to dabble until they find something they love. Permit them to explore a variety of outlets, but make sure they give activities a real shot instead of abandoning something when it presents a challenge.  

For teens: Some teens may already be aware of their unique strengths, in which you can be their cheerleader, showing up for competitions or driving them to practice. If your teen still hasn’t found something they love, It’s great to brainstorm potential activities with them, but resist the urge to push them into situations they’re not ready for. Instead, applaud your teen’s bravery when they do decide (on their own) to try something outside of their comfort zone. 

5. Set an Example

You might tell your child to put down their tablet, eat healthy foods, and try some mindfulness techniques, but if you’re not modeling this behavior for them, chances are they won’t follow through. Just as you would show your child how to be a good friend and a good listener, set an example for your child by controlling your own screen use, following a healthy diet, and practicing mindfulness techniques as a family.  Show them what it means to finish tasks that you begin, to practice patience, and to not be afraid to try new things. 

Try this:

For younger children: Encourage your child to join you and participate as you fulfill everyday tasks like shopping for groceries, preparing dinner, exercising, and practicing self-care. This up-close-and-personal interaction allows you to model healthy tactics first-hand.  

For teens: Let your teen play an active role in the household by helping to establish family rules and routines, and even consequences if they knowingly break a rule.  

And if you still need more support, consider giving your child Brillia, a homeopathic non-prescription medication designed to reduce symptoms of ADHD and anxiety and improve focus and clarity. Brillia’s active ingredient consists of antibodies to the S100B protein in lieu of harsh, synthetic chemicals. This ensures a gentle and impactful approach to managing ADHD symptoms without harmful side effects or contraindications. Learn more about how Brillia works and why it works best with the healthy lifestyle habits outlined in our 5-Pillar methodology. And visit the Brilia blog for more resources on thriving with ADHD.

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References: 1https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4425416/, 2https://www.cba-va.org/blog/science-behind-impact-exercise-adhd-and-executive-functioning, 3https://psychcentral.com/adhd/how-to-adapt-the-pomodoro-technique-adhd, 4https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23868356/, 5https://www.additudemag.com/deep-breathing-exercises-for-adhd-meditation/

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