10 Tips to Help Easily Distractible Teens Focus


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There are a lot of things vying for our teens’ attention these days. That fact coupled with attention difficulties such as ADD can make it hard for teens to focus and work well independently. If you have an easily distractible teen, try these tips to help him or her focus.

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1. Limit distractions. One of the best ways to help teens focus, right out of the gate, is to limit distractions. My one big no-no is watching TV while doing schoolwork.

It’s also wise to limit social media and texting. Have a designated spot for phones and electronic devices during school time. I’m not as strict about that as I used to be, but for awhile we had our designated spot and my teens could take a 5-10 minute break between subjects to read and reply to texts.

WriteShop has some fantastic ideas for limiting social media during school hours. (They’re helpful for easily distracted parents, too. {ahem})

2. Try workboxes. My oldest found our modified workbox system helpful all the way through high school. Because it was a very visual system with each subject in a separate folder, it was easy for her to see exactly what she had completed and what still needed to be done.

3. Create a study area. All teens can benefit from a dedicated study area, but it’s especially helpful for highly distractible teens. A study area doesn’t have to be elaborate, it just needs to be well-stocked with the items teens need for school such as paper, pens, pencils, a pencil sharpener, eraser, and books.

When my oldest used workboxes, I attached a zippered pencil bag designed for a 3-ring binder to her work crate with binder rings.

4. Use a planner. Get your student a planner so that she can write out her schedule and mark assignments off as they’re completed. We love the customizable student planners from A Plan in Place.

5. Hold them accountable. It’s wise to have a method for holding teens, particularly highly distractible ones, accountable. Meet with them daily or weekly to review their assignments, making sure that they’re being done and being done correctly.

At our house, I check math daily. On Thursday, I’ll check everything else and circle any assignments that may have been missed. We use Fridays as a catch-up day, so that works well for us.

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6. Establish a routine. A regular routine can help with distractibility because kids know what they need to do when so tasks don’t get overlooked as easily. Some kids find that timers also help because they can focus on a task if they know it’s only for a set time. Some distractible teens find that they like the challenge of completing an assignment before the timer goes off.

7. Noise-cancelling headphones.  A good pair of noise-cancelling headphones can be expensive – but they can also be oh so worth it. I love listening to the ambient background noise of Coffitivity, but some kids work well with music. Let your teens choose what works best for them as long as it’s effective and not more distracting than the background noises you’re trying to eliminate.

8. Take breaks. Distractible kids of all ages can benefit from frequent breaks. Ten or fifteen-minute breaks between assignments tends to work well for most teens. It’s also helpful to stagger more attention-draining assignments with more enjoyable ones. Josh will often play guitar for awhile after completing his math assignment.

9. Try a stress ball. For some kids, having a fidget object helps keep their minds busy. Brianna focuses much better on videos or lectures when she’s knitting. Some kids find pencil-tapping helpful for focus (often much to the annoyance of the people around them). A stress ball can be a fantastic – and quiet – alternative.

10. Encourage healthy habits. Diet, exercise, and sleep habits can play a huge role in distractibility. Make sure your teen is eating well and getting adequate rest and some physical activity each day.

These tips can help your distractible teen focus. If you suspect your teen suffers from ADD or ADHD, check with your doctor. While these issues are often over-diagnosed in our society, kids who truly deal with them can greatly benefit from medication and/or changes in their diet.

What do you find helps your teen to focus more effectively?

This post is linked to the Hip Homeschool Hop.

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6 Comments

  1. Just wanted to take a moment to say that at your recommendation I bought The Plan in Place Planners for my kids. They have been so helpful! We absolutely enjoy having them and it has made homeschool planning/record keeping a lot easier for me.

  2. My 16 yr old has ADHD, and I’ve found that he gets distracted much less if he does his work at night. He’s able to focus more, and the house is a bit quieter. These are great ideas. Pinning this to my ADHD board!

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