Improving Executive Functioning in Pre-Teens and Teens

Improving Executive Functioning in Pre-Teens and Teens

Executive functioning skills are a set of mental skills that help us control our thoughts to learn, work, and manage daily life. Two critical executive functioning skills that often need strengthening in this age group are organizational skills and task initiation. These skills are essential for developing effective study habits, which are crucial for academic success and overall well-being. Let’s explore why these skills are so important and how we can help teens develop them.

Organizational Skills: These involve the ability to create and maintain systems to keep track of information or materials. For pre-teens and teens, this might mean organizing their school assignments, keeping their study space tidy, and managing their schedules effectively.

Task Initiation: This is the ability to begin tasks promptly and without undue procrastination. For students, task initiation involves starting homework, projects, or study sessions without excessive delay.

Teens with underdeveloped organizational skills and poor task initiation often struggle with:

  1. Academic Performance: Disorganized teens may miss deadlines, lose assignments, or forget important tasks. Procrastination can lead to last-minute work that compromises the quality of their assignments and increases stress.
  2. Stress and Anxiety: Constantly feeling behind can create a cycle of stress and anxiety. The more tasks pile up, the harder it becomes to start any of them, leading to a sense of being overwhelmed.
  3. Self-Esteem: Struggling to keep up with peers can negatively impact a teen’s self-esteem. They may feel inadequate or incapable, which can affect their overall mental health.

Here are some effective approaches to improve these skills.:

Use Visual Schedules and Planners: Encourage teens to use planners or digital apps to keep track of assignments, tests, and extracurricular activities. Visual schedules can help them see their tasks clearly and plan accordingly.

Organize Study Spaces: A clutter-free, dedicated study area can minimize distractions and make it easier to find materials when needed.

Set Specific Goals: Help teens break down large assignments into smaller, manageable tasks. Setting specific, achievable goals for each study session can make the work feel less overwhelming.

Use Timers: The Pomodoro Technique, which involves working for a set period (e.g., 25 minutes) followed by a short break, can help teens stay focused and make starting tasks less daunting.

Establish Consistent Study Times: Encourage teens to set aside specific times each day for studying. Consistent routines can make task initiation a habit rather than a chore.

Prioritize Tasks: Teach teens to prioritize their tasks by deadlines and importance. Tackling high-priority tasks first can provide a sense of accomplishment and reduce stress.

Parental and Educational Support

Parents and teachers play a crucial role in supporting teens as they develop these skills. Here are some ways they can help:

  • Consistent Communication: Regular check-ins with teens about their progress and challenges can provide necessary support and guidance.
  • Modeling Behavior: Demonstrating good organizational habits and task initiation can serve as a powerful example for teens.
  • Providing Resources: Offering tools such as planners, apps, and organizational supplies can empower teens to take control of their tasks.

Organizational skills and task initiation are foundational for developing effective study habits and achieving academic success.  Through concerted effort and support, we can empower teens to overcome their challenges and reach their full potential.

Galvin Growth Group will be hosting three executive functioning skills workshops this summer: one for middle school students (in-person), one for high school students (in-person), and one for parents (virtually).

Contact our office today to learn more and to register.