Executive functioning can be a daunting term. It was to me when I first heard it. But as a parent, there are a few easy things that we can do to help our middle schoolers become more aware of these skills. Thank you to Erin Condren for providing the planner and planner accessories for this post. All opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links which, when purchased through, add no cost to the consumer but provide this site with a small commission to enable it to continue bringing more articles.
I was not familiar with the term “executive functioning” until I took my son to a therapist. She was helping him overcome a few processing delays that he developed due to past chemotherapy treatments that he had during a pivotal period of childhood development. Since he is still younger elementary age, she recommended that I begin implementing executive functioning skills with him as soon as possible. She believed that, if he could develop substantial organizational and personal skills, that these would have the power to significantly help with the processing delays.
Since learning about executive functioning, I have deliberately made efforts to implement these tasks with all of my kids. The skills to be organized, develop self-control, and develop other behaviors that help reach goals are important for everyone! As a parent, it can be hard to know where to begin, especially if you are like me and are not even familiar with the term. I have a child entering middle school this year, and she is already expressing anxiety of changing classes and having different teachers. Executive functioning is definitely at the top of my mind during this time in her life! Here are a few ways parents can promote executive functioning skills in middle schoolers.
Learn About It
Of course, we can’t share what we do not know. I’m not an expert on executive functioning skills. There are plenty of educators out there who are. I’ve put forth an effort to learn from them through blog articles and books. This book in particular, though geared towards educators and therapists, was recommended by my son’s therapist. It was crucial in jump starting my journey.
Encourage Your Tween/Teen to Write about a Relevant Topic
Most kids don’t sit still long enough to ponder executive functioning skills, but writing is a great tool to help with this. Assign them an informal writing assignment and offer a goal in return (15 more minutes of video game time or an ice cream stop, maybe?). Here are a few thought starters for topics, though there are many more that could be added to the list!
- How learning relates to my future
- A time when I would have benefitted from being more organized
- How I will stay organized this school year
- How I can use schoolwork to relate to life outside of school
- 5 things elementary school taught me
- 5 things I hope to accomplish in middle school
Demonstrate Good Scheduling and Planning Habits
It drives me crazy when I ask my boys when an assignment is due and they respond, “I don’t know.” This coming year, we are focusing on note-taking, calendar-making, and taking responsibility for tracking school deadlines. These items came naturally with my daughter, but a physical planner helped her tremendously.
She started using a physical planner in 5th grade, and it is a skill that she will take with her to middle school. The planner allows her to keep track of assignments and deadlines. While her school does list assignments online, the act of actually writing the assignment down in the planner helps to embed it in her brain.
She already has her planner for middle school. See her using it here. Academic Planners from Erin Condren are excellent tools for helping kids establish a plan for learning. This year, she is using one of the new cute Hello Kitty Academic Planners. It is a 12 month planner with a laminate cover (hello, bookbag tosses!). It includes space for her class schedule, monthly notes, weekly/monthly calendar, and detailed pages for projects/exams.
I’ve also found that when a tween/teen likes the design of something, he/she are more likely to use the item. Erin Condren has plenty of designs, so kids are bound to find a cover design that they like. Check them all out here. There is even a Hello Kitty Kid’s Planner that jumpstarts children as young as 8 with utilizing a calendar for planning.
It is never too late to enforce executive functioning skills or to learn a new skill. Hopefully this brief article has encouraged you to learn more.
Erin Condren offers a wide range of planner accessories. The new Hello Kitty sports collection offers everything from pens to washi tape to interchangeable planner cover to pencil cases and items in between. View the entire collection here.