Executive function a buzzword phrase used by many these days to explain their difficulties with functioning at work, school, and home. What exactly is executive functioning? They are skills that enable you to get things done, and are critical in managing and regulating thoughts, time and task management, goal setting, flexible thinking, working memory, self-monitoring, and focus.
Our executive function is like the command-and-control center, filtering distractions and controlling impulses.
One of the tasks facing children as they are growing up is that of developing their executive functioning. Below are some areas to target to help them in their development of their executive functioning.
Are your children always forgetting things? Do they seem disorganized? Is time management non-existent? Now that we are back in the swing of in-person schooling, you may notice that disorganization and lack of attention is more pervasive than previously. Figuring out positive ways to help children effectively manage their stress and the multiple demand on their time is critical to their success.
Young children are concrete thinkers. As they develop through adolescence, they become increasingly involved in and concerned about the world around them. As a parent, you can model skills to help them succeed, whether in sports, art, school, work, or learning to be a good friend, family member, and partner. Modeling Habits of Mind, that is persistence, problem solving, flexibility, listening with empathy, asking questions, humor, independent thought, and awareness of self and others, will give your children tools to focus, prioritize, and accomplish.
Habits of Mind need to be learned concretely. The Checklist is one of the best tools with which to start. Checklists can be your best friend, minimizing confrontations, reducing stress, and increasing effectiveness. However, they can also be difficult. They are time consuming to initiate and, like any habit, trying to establish them may take at least 21 days to get used to them.
• as a memory jogger
• as a “coach”
• as an accountability “buddy”
as a method to break down a task into in smaller, more achievable steps
Family calendars, visible to all, are also an effective tool for teaching self-management skills. Posting each individual person’s events and deadlines and family events can serve as an important reminder for the day and week ahead. Review it together each night before bedtime and add/ subtract/or check off as completed.
Checklists and calendars will increase your child’s confidence as they engage in real-life responsibilities, helping them maintain focus on accomplishing the task. But it is hard to develop new habits and the process can seem daunting. Progress is not always linear. Start small, reinforce each success, and use that as a platform upon which you can build.
For more help with these skills, contact us at Core Counseling of North Jersey, (201) 875-5699. Our experienced professionals offer individual executive functioning coaching, social skills groups for children, and parental support to help them navigate these challenges.