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Navigating the Holiday Season Through the Lens of Executive Function

Supporting kids during the school year is hard enough but throwing in the busy holidays can certainly

create challenging moments.

With some thoughtful strategies and planning, you can help your kids navigate this hectic time with less

stress and have more fun! We find that many teenagers experience increased holiday stresses because

they have trouble self-regulating, which is part of executive function deficiencies, which often include

difficulties with planning, organization, and time management. Middle and high schoolers often have

quarterly or semester exams at this time, so they experience increased anxiety and pressure in addition

to the busy holiday season. Here are some ways to offer support to your teen or tween so they can feel

prepared for their academic expectations while also enjoying their time with friends and family.

Visual Schedules and Timers:

Create a visual schedule or calendar so your child can see the activities planned. Ask

them to add their own plans (time with friends, parties, etc.) to the master calendar. This

can be accomplished through a monthly calendar in a central location in the home so

they can see what is coming up over the next few weeks or a shared phone calendar

such as Google Calendar. This way the “big picture” events and activities are always in

sight and available.

Preparation and Planning:

Break down tasks and preparations into small, manageable steps. Help your child make

plans and prioritize what needs to be done. This can apply to packing for trips, preparing

for events, as well as preparing for tests and projects in smaller steps so that they still

have time to enjoy the festivities planned around the holidays.

Predictable Routines:

Maintain a consistent daily routine as much as possible. Predictable schedules can help

kids with executive function issues feel more in control during busy times. Even for older

kids, getting to bed on time will help them think more clearly and in a more organized way

in the coming days so they do not get too overwhelmed or fall behind on assignments or

other tasks.

Taking Breaks:

Reminding your teens and tweens that non-device breaks are essential to reset the brain.

Even fun and excitement can feel like stress to the brain and therefore taking a break can

help the brain get to a place of calm and clarity. By taking much needed breaks it will

make your focus time much more productive and efficient.

Practice Problem-Solving:

Encourage your child to think through potential challenges they might face during the

holidays and come up with strategies to address them. This can boost their

independence with homework and planning, so they are not caught in a difficult jam when

things don’t go as planned.

Positive Reinforcement:

Use positive reinforcement to reward and encourage desirable behaviors and task

completion. This can motivate your child to follow through on tasks and routines.

“Remember that every child is unique and the level of support needed may vary. The

key is to be patient, understanding, and adaptable when supporting your child's

individual needs during the busy holiday season.” explains Robyn Laub, Executive Function

Coach and U Power, Powered by You! Founder.

Executive function coaching is a valuable tool to support your child’s academic and social development,

providing essential skills to help them be successful as they continue to college and beyond. If you have

questions about executive function coaching for your child, either individually or in a small group, please

feel free to reach out to us for more information at