Teachers and school counselors may be able to support teens' executive functioning skill development at school, but parents can play a big part in creating a home environment that supports EF skill development too!
Here are 6 tips and strategies that families can use to improve each other's time management, organization, goal setting & metacognitive skills.
1. Be Honest About All Family Members’ EF Strengths & Weaknesses Each person in the family has a brain with unique characteristics, strengths & areas to improve. Sometimes teens think their parents’ are perfect and can’t imagine that their parents have executive functioning weaknesses too. I suggest that each family member takes this EF assessment and then discuss the results together. Talking about each member’s brain strengths and weaknesses can depersonalize conversations about executive functioning and help struggling teens feel like they aren’t alone.
2. Incorporate EF Time Into Your Day Dinnertime is my family’s most attentive time together. While we eat, I ask questions about everyone’s highlight of the day and also preview our day and week ahead. We have a white board calendar on our refrigerator which captures our family’s events. Choose one time each day (or each week) when your family is together and can talk about schedules, organization or planning. 3. Be Explicit About the EF Tools YOU Use Adults use tools to help manage our personal and professional lives. In fact, many of us use a combination of tools to keep ourselves organized. I use the Reminders app on my phone, Google Calendar, Microsoft Outlook, paper to-do lists, Post-it notes, whiteboard calendars, notebooks, etc. Be intentional about pointing out your strategies for organization when your teen is around. If you’re in the car, ask your teen to hold your Post-it note to-do list or talk openly when you check your Google Calendar to look for upcoming appointments.
4. Use EF Language Similar to tip #3, using executive functioning language at home can bring a focus to important EF terms that your teen should know. When it rains and beach plans don’t work out, thank your teen for their understanding and flexibility. When you forget the time their softball game starts, mention how helpful it is to have a calendar tool to help your working memory. When your teen says they want to get a summer job, tell them how proud you are that they are goal setting.
5. Bring Tools Into Their Bedroom Spaces Think about the places in your house where your teen spends most of their time. I’ll take one guess - their bedroom? Place EF tools in the spaces where your teen spends the most time (the basement, office, bedroom, etc.). For example, if your teen takes long showers why not put a clock in the bathroom? If your teen is constantly running late, why not put a wall clock on the wall across from their bed? If your teen has sports or music rehearsals, why not put a calendar on the back of their bedroom door or above their desk where they can see their upcoming games & rehearsals? Our environment shapes our behavior, so ensure your home environment is supporting your teen’s EF skill development.
6. Let Your Teens Take Ownership EF skills CAN be developed and improved over time, but it takes practice. This means that your teen needs opportunities to practice scheduling, organization, time management and goal setting. Here are some examples: Ask your teen to make the family’s weekly grocery list in the notes app on their phone. Have your teen update the family whiteboard calendar every Sunday night. Have your teen keep their medical appointments in their Google Calendar (or create a shared family calendar for medical & dental appts.). The more opportunities your teen has to practice EF skills at home, the more likely they will be use these EF skills when they are at college or living on their own.
If your teen could benefit from 1:1 executive functioning coaching and skills that they can use utilize at home as well as in school, please reach out to us. We will share more about how our EF coaches support students, what a typical weekly session looks like as well as how we help students make the connection between EF skills and getting ready for college. Contact Jennifer at firstname.lastname@example.org