Building Concentration – For Children

“When the vacations begin a trip to grand mom’s place is a must. I am telling dad that he has to book my ticket immediately. Otherwise he will never get around to doing it. “ “Priya……you are day dreaming again. Why can’t you just concentrate on your studies?” her mother said throwing an angry look towards her. Priya jolted back to reality and saw that she was still on the same page of her history book as she was 20 minutes ago.

Just 4 weeks left for the final exams and Priya was tense. How would she complete so much portion and studies in so less a time? Her mother kept telling her that she would be able to study and get good marks too if only she could concentrate more on her studies. But every time Priya sat with a book her mind wandered all over the place. Priya was at her wits end. She felt like tearing at her hair. Just what was this “concentration” all about? If only someone could explain to her how to concentrate…….

This must be a common scene with all you students. All around us well meaning adults keep telling us that the golden mantra to do well in studies is good concentration. So let us try and learn how one can better one’s concentration.

Concentration has been defined as “the ability to direct one’s thinking in whatever direction one would intend”. We all have the ability to concentrate some of the time. But at other times our thoughts are scattered, and our minds race from one thing to another. To deal with such times, we need to learn and practice concentration skills and strategies.

The following three skills are basic to concentration. If you want to improve your concentration, start by practicing them.

1. STOP!!!

What has the word STOP got to do anything with concentration? Well this is a technique where you just tell yourself to your mind to STOP wandering and start focusing. Sounds amusing, too simple? But children, it works!

While studying, when you notice your thoughts wandering, say to yourself STOP and then gently bring your attention back to where you want it to be. Priya can try and tell herself to STOP and bring back her attention to the history book in front of her, each time it wanders bring it back. To begin with, this could be several times a minute. But each time, say STOP and then re-focus. Don’t waste energy trying to keep thoughts out of your mind (forbidden thoughts attract like a magnet!), just put the effort into STOP and re-focus.

To begin with you will do this hundreds of times a week. But you will find that the period of time between your straying thoughts gets a little longer each day, so be patient and keep at it.

2. Attending

This is about maintaining concentration and not giving in to distractions. It could be described as a sort of tunnel-vision, or as being focused: you keep your concentration on what is in front of you. If you are distracted, use the STOP technique to regain concentration. You can practice attending in many situations: For ex:

When in the classroom, if fellow students move or cough, ignore them, don’t look at them; actively exclude them from the link or tunnel formed between you and the teacher.

When at home, during study time keep your attention solely on your book – and ignore what is going on around you like the telephone ringing, family members talking to each other etc.

3. Worry time

Set aside one or more specific periods in the day when you are allowed to worry. It can help to set them just before something that you know you will do, to ensure that you stop worrying on time – e.g. before a favourite TV programme, or a meal-time. While studying, whenever an anxiety or distracting thought enters your mind, banish it until your next worry time, and re-focus on to what you are supposed to be doing.

Some people find it helpful to write down the banished thought because it is easier to banish a thought if you are sure you won’t have forgotten it and writing ensures that you will not forget when you get to your worry time.

One word of caution needs to be added here: You may notice, particularly if you keep a list, that certain things keep reappearing: this is a fairly clear indication that you need to do something about them! So if Priya is excessively worried about that trip to her grand mom’s she should immediately tell her father to book of the tickets or else she would worry about it right through her exams!

Apart from these 3 basic skills there are other simple tips also that you can use while studying to better your concentration:

  • Start any lesson with some curiosity about it and a positive attitude towards learning.
  • Study in an area away from distraction and use proper lighting.
  • Make sure you have every thing that you need like the lesson book, pencils, book to make notes etc before you begin.
  • Set goals for your sessions that are realistic (number of problems to solve, pages to read, a chapter to complete etc). After achieving each such successive goal, reward yourself with a short break. The break could be a walk around the house, listening to one of your favorite song, or seeing a favorite half an hour serial etc.
  • Make studying an active process like sit straight in a chair and a desk, make notes, outline chapters, memorize and so forth
  • Take a 5-minute break for every 30 minutes of studies.
  • Make connections between things you already know and what you are studying.
  • Divide your work into smaller manageable task that can be completed in short periods.
  • Study during the time which suits you the best that is when you are very alert and fresh and start with a difficult topic.

So Priya next time you sit to study start with these tips and see the difference!

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