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How to Talk to Your Child About Being Distracted and Unfocused

Kids with certain learning or attention issues can have trouble staying focused on schoolwork or might get easily distracted. It can be hard to know how to approach the topic with your child in a positive and productive way. To help, explore the common challenges and suggested conversation starters below.

Trouble Staying Focused

What you can say: “I know you try hard to pay attention in class but you get distracted. What helps you stay focused?”
Tip: It might help your child to stay focused if the teacher comes over and touches his shoulder when she wants him to pay attention.

What you can say: “What helps you stay focused when you’re doing homework?”
Tip: Your child may do well with a quiet, orderly space to do his homework. Or listening to music might help him concentrate.

What you can say: “What things (noises, people) distract you the most?”
Tip: It might be better for your child to be seated away from loud or distracting classmates in school. Talk to your child’s teacher about this possibility.

Trouble Starting Projects and Shifting Between Activities

What you can say: “Remember that big science project you did last year? You started late and had to give up some fun activities so you could finish it. What do you think would help you start projects sooner?”

Tip: To avoid procrastination, you might want to start going over project instructions with your child as soon as a project is assigned. Talk about where he anticipates he might need help from you or clarification from the teacher.

What you can say: “The pirate ship you’re building looks awesome—you’re following those instructions really well. But you sure get upset when I tell you it’s time to stop playing and do your homework. Let’s figure out how to make the switch from play to work go better.”
Tip: Help your child find “pause points” in a game or project to save his work and set it aside for later. You can also try making eye contact with him each time you issue a warning to switch gears.

Trouble With Complicated Directions

Your child might say: “Mom, when you give me so many directions in a row I can’t remember them all!”
Tip: You might want to ask your child to do no more than two things in a row, and make eye contact when you ask. You can also write clear to-do lists for home and school.

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Zakat eligibility of The FYI

The Family & Youth Institute, or The FYI, is a well-known Muslim organization in the United States. It works to promote mental health and wellness by strengthening and empowering individuals, families, and communities through research and education. It has been working for many years to bring Islamic perspectives to understanding and promoting mental health in our communities.

It is dedicated to serving and supporting Muslims – safeguarding our deen, our families, and our future generations. Therefore, the work of The FYI comes in the category of ‘fi sabeelillah’ or the Path of Allah, within the eight categories where Zakat money can be used.

Zakah expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed for it and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah, and for the [stranded] traveler – an obligation [imposed] by Allah, And Allah, is Knowing and Wise.”
(Al-Tawbah 9:60)

According to scholars who widen the meaning of fee sabeelillah to include any activities that promote Islamic growth, The FYI is indeed eligible to receive part of the Zakat funds for its programs and services. I urge Muslims in America to support this organization through their donations, general charity, and through their Zakat. I ask Allah swt to strengthen and guide The FYI to continue its good work in supporting Muslims.

Shaikh Ali Suleiman Ali, PhD

About Shaikh Ali

Sh. Ali Suleiman Ali was born in Ghana where he spent his childhood studying with various Muslim scholars. He then moved to Saudi Arabia and enrolled in the Islamic University of Madina.  He graduated with a degree in both Arabic and Islamic Studies. Dr. Ali went on to complete his Ph.D. in Islamic Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Sh. Ali serves on the Advisory Council of The Family & Youth Institute. He is the Senior Imam and Director of the Muslim Community of Western Suburbs in Canton, Michigan. Additionally, he serves as the Director of Muslim Family Services in Detroit and is a council member of the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA). He is also a member of the North American Imams Federation (NAIF) and the Association of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA).