Help Your Children Find Their Focus

By FCPS & Fairfax County Government
Healthy Minds
November 06, 2019

The theme of this year's national School Psychology Awareness Week from November 11-15 is “Find Your Focus.” Finding one’s "focus" can mean a variety of things from paying attention, to being able to see an idea more clearly, to identifying an area of interest, or to being persistent or determined in one’s effort. Focusing can help us set goals, identify action steps, communicate needs, and engage in discussions to help create the connections necessary for students to develop critical academic and social emotional skills. School psychologists, along with other school personnel, work with students every day to help them find their focus—identify strengths and interests, develop persistence, see ideas and situations more clearly, and attend to important information in academic and social settings. We believe families can do the same.

Helping Children at Home

There are many ways families can help children find their focus. As parents and caregivers, you can: 

  1. Talk to your children about their strengths and interests. What do they think they are good at? What activities are they interested in? What career path do they want to follow? Emphasize that learning and growing require trying new things and that success comes from small steps to a long-term goal.
  2. Help your children develop positive relationships with peers and adults, and model respectful, caring behaviors with others.
  3. Encourage goal setting and mapping out a plan for achieving their goals. Talk with your children about steps they have taken, what worked and what did not, and what they might do next.
  4. Praise attempts, as well as success, and make sure that you focus on the effort or hard work put into the success. Emphasize the importance of deliberate practice and that talent is developed over time through skillful practice.
  5. Create an environment at home that allows your children to explore building (playing with blocks, helping with projects, and more), drawing (crayons, finger paints, paper), and music (on the radio, with children’s instruments, or through formal training through school or community resources). This may help to identify special interests.
  6. Help your children work through setbacks, or lack of self-confidence, by helping to identify negative thoughts that may suggest concerns about personal ability to be successful. As a parent, you can help children see what the small steps are and how persisting and overcoming obstacles is a part of succeeding. Help your child realize that setbacks are not permanent or all-encompassing.
  7. Seek out support systems available in the community to help your children learn new skills and thrive, such as tutoring or mentoring programs. 
  8. Encourage your children to participate in school and community activities that may help them to develop positive behaviors, such as being grateful. In particular, volunteer activities may encourage the development of positive behaviors. Consider participating in community and school events yourself as role a model.

About School Psychologists

School psychologists are members of school staff who support students’ ability to learn and teachers’ ability to teach. School psychologists apply expertise in mental health, learning, and behavior to help children and youth succeed academically, socially, emotionally, and behaviorally. This is achieved by providing direct support to students, such as individualized learning and behavioral assessments to identify students’ strengths and needs, academic and behavioral interventions, counseling, and social skills training. School psychologists also consult with teachers, families, and other educators to improve support strategies and school-wide practices and policies, and are in a unique position to ensure students’ success every day, including both small and big accomplishments.

School psychologists are in every educational setting in Fairfax County Public Schools. The school psychologist in your school looks forward to working with you and other families in our community to encourage all of our children, whether at home or at school, to take positive action to make our community a better place.

Healthy Minds is for parents, educators, and community-based providers who are interested in supporting student mental health and wellness. It represents a collaboration between FCPS’ Office of Intervention and Prevention Services and the Fairfax County Government. SUBSCRIBE to Healthy Minds and receive a monthly digest of our most recent articles.