Helping your Child Focus

Regulation refers to the child’s ability to focus his attention, control his emotions, and manage his thinking, behavior, ad feelings.  Young children require adults to help them regulate until they learn self-regulation skills. There are many factors that can affect the level of regulation your child (and you) might be in:

Internal causes –

  1. Food – Is the child eating too much/too little? What is the child eating (too much sugar, processed food, chocolate, food coloring?). Offer regular meals and healthy food choices.
  2. Sleep – Is the child sleeping enough (average 12 hours a day)? Is the child sleeping at night (daylight hours vs dark hours affect our circadian/internal clock)? Create a bedtime routine, and guard your child’s sleep.
  3. Temperature – Is the child too hot? Too cold? Is it very windy? Raining? Thunder?
  4. Pain – Is the child feeling well? In pain?
  5. Boredom/stress – Is the activity too easy? Too hard?
  6. Fear – is there something in the environment the child is afraid of?

External causes –

  1. Touch – to support regulation provide sustained deep pressure (proprioception). Tight Hugs.
  2. Language used – Talk in a calm, soothing voice. Be animated and use intonation. Language used should be positive.
  3. Body language – pointing, smiling, hand over hand, modeling.
  4. Movement – linear (back and forth) movement are calming (as in a swing). Proprioceptive input helps children regulate as in dancing, bouncing on knees, running, jumping. Allow your child at least 30 minutes of active play before he is required to focus or maintain regulation (at the doctor’s office for example).
  5. Vision – reduce clutter in the environment. Use a tent, box, or tunnel to provide a clutter free space your child can go into. Place toys in boxes and only keep 3-5 toys out at any time.
  6. Noise – is the environment loud? Sudden noises?

Compiled by Sara Torten MS, OTR/L

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