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Executive Function- A Skill For Life!

Do you ever feel like you are running in circles all day but not actually accomplishing anything?

Does your to-do list feel so large that you are too overwhelmed to begin?

Managing your day can be hard if you do not know how to attack it. We all experience this from time to time, but imagine starting and ending this way every day and not knowing how to ask for help or how to tap into helpful strategies.

emotional regulation kids

As an Occupational Therapist and Executive Function Coach who works with children of all ages, I know these are common challenges that many kids face, but with consistent guidance and support, these children can learn how to work smarter not harder. Learning how you learn is known as metacognition.

Using strategies to keep calm and focused is called self-regulation. Being able to shift and pivot in order to accommodate changes in schedules or expectations is known as mental flexibility. These are just a few components of managing one’s executive functioning.

Executive function is not something a child is born with but rather develops over time. Often shockingly, it is something that does not fully develop until well into the mid-to-late 20s. That can seem a little daunting if you are in the throes of raising a child with these difficulties, and they are nowhere near their mid-20s! However, there are solutions and ways to help build their executive-function skills no matter their age or stage.

Here are some ways to get started:

  • Teach your child to see and feel time – Time management is not just about checklists and planners, although those are important tools to have. If your child has a planner but does not look at it or use it to actually plan, then it may not be effective. Instead, have him or her come home and write their assignments on a wall calendar in a common place in the home, such as the kitchen. You can get creative with this process if you choose! The calendar should comprise information about this week as well as future weeks, and make sure it is visible to both you and your child and that it is inviting to the eye. Also, consider having your child estimate the amount of time each task will take them to complete and add that to the communal calendar. That will help you to help them decide if they need to break the task into smaller pieces and possibly complete them on separate occasions. A bonus of this strategy is that it allows you to know if your child has an accurate assessment of time and how much time it actually takes to complete assignment(s).

  • Self-regulation Strategies – Children today often feel just as tired and as spread-thin as their parents. School pressure and activity schedules are much more intense than ever before. Consider implementing a time each day during which kids can decompress without devices. They can listen to quiet music (preferably without words), read a book, or relax in a bean bag chair. Also consider breaking up homework into manageable tasks with short activity breaks in between assignments, such as walking the dog or playing catch to get the brain and the body set for the next task.

Raising children to be organized and to plan out their time is not an easy feat. Implementing small, attainable strategies is a great step to supporting your child with this process.

Looking for help in supporting your child's executive function skills? Please visit for additional resources and upcoming classes.

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Written by: Robyn Laub - Occupational Therapist & Executive Function Coach