Shift Your Perspective
Last summer when we met Sarah and her mom, Lila, we knew immediately how difficult life had become just by the tone of their voices. Both were frustrated by not only the pandemic but by how difficult it had been to keep up with school work all spring. Lila felt terrible as she felt like all she did was nag and Sarah was getting tired of trying with no positive results.
This frustration wasn’t entirely new because once middle school started Sarah was having an increasingly difficult time organizing her materials, completing work on time, and managing her emotions.
Sarah’s mom had talked to teachers when Sarah was in 6th grade and they said that it was a bit of a transition year and that Sarah would learn new skills. In 7th grade teachers said she just needs to try harder and then finally in 8th grade one of her teachers said she thought Sarah needed help. This teacher was afraid that if Sarah didn’t learn these skills now school and life would grow more and more difficult. Lila was scared too and her relationship with her daughter was feeling taxed with sighing, yelling, crying, and eye rolling.
Some of these things are developmental and all of these things are exacerbated by weakened executive functioning skills.
Step 1 in helping Sarah and Lila was to help them both get a better understanding of executive functioning skills. Without this understanding; change is impossible. Most of the time people think organization as something physical but it is also how our mind thinks and breaks things apart into a logical sequence. When executive functioning skills are weakened the brain doesn’t break anything apart and all of the incoming information swirls around. If you stop and really observe your child you can actually see this happening. Shift your perspective from what is obvious to what is going on inside your child’s brain.
We would like to challenge you to see if you can observe this “swirling” of information in your child’s mind. Once you can identify “the swirl” you can help your child by asking open ended questions about the task at hand. For example, if your child has a lot of homework and seems to be doing nothing you can ask, “What is your plan?” This helps the brain make sense of the overwhelm by creating a plan.
The questions cue the part of the brain that focuses on logic, reasoning and planning. At first, you may need to help your child create this plan but as time goes on the executive functioning skills will strengthen and your child will get better and better at this.
We always say the good news is executive functioning skills can be taught and strengthened. This learning needs to be purposeful for true lifelong learning. Visit our Summer 2021 page for special offerings.