4 Ways to Nurture Teen Focus

4 Ways to Nurture Teen Focus

Improving the attention span of teenagers can positively impact their futures.

Recently on the Teen Life Podcast, we had a conversation about how short attention spans are even affecting the way teens consume sporting events and other media. Gone are the days when teens would watch long movies like Lord of the Rings or settle in for a full day of watching sports on the couch. Highlight reels, TikToks, and TV series have made it easy for teens to quickly pop in and feel like they haven’t missed anything important.

But is this sustainable for the real world or a future job? Teens still need to develop their attention spans!

Whether you’re a teacher or a parent, fostering focus and patience in teenagers can significantly impact their well-being.

Here are four ways to help teenagers slow down and harness their attention spans effectively.

Create a Distraction Free Environment

The first step to help teenagers improve their attention spans is to create a calming environment where they have the space and time to focus. Both at home and in the classroom, minimize distractions. Encourage a quiet, organized space for studying and other fun activities. Turn off notifications on electronic devices, or establish screen-free zones during specific hours. This approach can help teens concentrate on tasks without constantly seeking external stimulation.

Encourage Mindfulness and Meditation

Mindfulness practices can be a game-changer for teenagers. Teach them the value of being present in the moment. Simple meditation exercises or deep breathing techniques can help reduce anxiety and improve concentration. Listen to our podcast episodes on meditation and breathing techniques to learn how you can help teens practice these calming exercises.

Set Realistic Goals and Timelines

Teenagers often struggle with the concept of time management. It’s crucial to help them set realistic goals and timelines for their activities. Encourage them to break tasks into smaller, manageable steps and allocate specific time blocks for each. This approach not only improves focus but also boosts their confidence as they achieve their goals. Task gamification might be something you want to try. It is an excellent way to help teens be more productive while keeping it fun!

Be a Role Model

Your role as a parent, teacher, or helper is essential in shaping a teenager’s behavior. Be a role model by demonstrating the importance of slowing down and focusing. Engage in activities that require concentration, such as cooking or baking, and involve your teenagers in the process. Share your love for reading with them and encourage them to explore books. Turn off devices while watching a movie, playing a game, or driving in the car.

Are you up for the challenge?

By creating distraction-free environments, promoting mindfulness, setting realistic goals, and being a positive role model, caring adults can equip teenagers with the skills they need to focus and succeed.

Will you accept this attention span challenge? How will you slow down yourself this week?

Karlie Duke

Karlie Duke

Director of Communications

How Aware Are You?

How Aware Are You?

Recently my husband and I were watching Brain Games on Netflix. The episode we were watching was called “Focus Pocus”, and it was about attention. It gave several tests for viewers such as counting the number of passes in a scene and watching a pickpocket in action before selecting him out of a lineup. Despite considering myself someone who pays attention to details and despite knowing I was playing a brain game, I was amazed at all the things I missed. It led me to contemplate what am I missing in other people, and even what am I missing in myself.

Then, I heard a presenter speak on Mindful Awareness. Jon Kabat-Zinn defines “Mindful Awareness” as:

Paying attention; on purpose; in the present moment; while being non-judgmental.

Sounds simple, but we all know it’s not. Listening isn’t intuitive. It’s something we talk about in our Teen Life Facilitator Training. Many of us aren’t even aware of how poorly we listen.

To get a better idea of how mindful you are as a listener, ask yourself a few questions:

  1. How often are you solving a problem before the person talking to you has finished telling you the problem?
  2. How often do you catch yourself planning your next words and missing the end of a conversation?
  3. How often do you steer a conversation to or away from a topic?
  4. How often are you “fine” until that one sensitive topic gets mentioned?

During the presentation, it also discussed how our awareness of our own thoughts, feelings, and situations impacts our ability to pay attention to others.

A few self-awareness questions to consider:

  1. What do I bring to this situation/conversation from my own personal story?
  2. Has anything taken place recently that might be influencing this situation/my decision making?
  3. What is going on just below the surface that might result in a negative outcome in this discussion?
  4. Am I taking the time to meet my own needs in order to be available to meet the needs of others?

Having “Mindful Awareness” is not easy and takes practice, especially when working with teens. It requires stopping, taking a few deep breaths, truly listening, observing the situation, being aware of your own feelings, and then proceeding toward the goal.

But it’s worth it! The more aware we are of ourselves, the bigger impact we can make when interacting with others. And we might even get better at life’s brain games while we are working on it!

Beth Nichols is Teen Life’s Program Manager. With her background in social work and experience as a mom of 4, her perspective is invaluable.