“Late to school (again!) because you’re looking for last night’s homework?”

By Arielle Sheinman, LCSW

Has your child lost his or her textbook, yet again? Forgot to pack the lunchbox, for the third time this week? Report feeling fidgety in class, again? This may sound like a typical Monday morning, but, what if, this is the scene in your home on a daily basis? If it is, chances are you find yourself constantly repeating directions, digging through disorganized backpacks, and dreading homework hour. Without an understanding of your child’s behavior, it’s easy to feel frustrated and angry.

Enter: The Executive Functions.

Executive functioning is an umbrella term for the management of cognitive processes. What does this really mean? The executive functions are like gears within our brain. They help us make decisions, organize thinking patterns, and regulate emotional responses.

An estimated 35 % of today’s students struggle with some type of executive functioning challenge. Executive functioning challenges reflect intellectual abilities but they can impede school performance. They can lead to feelings of frustration for parents and poor self-esteem in students.

There are 11 main executive functions, which may impact school performance:

  1. Maintaining focus
  2. Calming down
  3. Knowing when not to act
  4. Adaptability
  5. Getting started
  6. Knowing what’s important
  7. Organization
  8. Time Management
  9. Goal Directed Persistence or keeping your eye on the prize
  10. Learning to self-monitor or evaluate
  11. Working with memory

So now that you know about the executive functions, here are some tips to reduce frustration for parents and children:

  1. Collaborate with your child’s school and teacher! Many teachers will prompt students to use daily planners, breakdown large assignments into smaller chunks, and provide sensory breaks. Parents can review daily planners to gain a better understanding of their child’s workload.
  2. Help your child make a priority list/schedule when they begin their homework. Teach them to approximate how long an assignment may take when creating their schedule. Encourage them to complete more difficult tasks first, as it only becomes harder to remain on task as homework time progresses.
  3. There’s more! Remember to remain neutral when giving your child a directive, obtain their eye contact, and possibly use a tactile cue like a hand on the arm so you can be sure you have gained their attention

If you are concerned that your child may be struggling with some of the challenges listed above, give us a call to learn about how we do executive function coaching with kids.