Parenting teenagers with executive functioning challenges can be a unique and sometimes challenging experience.
Executive functions refer to a set of mental processes that help individuals plan, organize, and execute tasks effectively.
Teens with executive functioning challenges may struggle with time management, organization, impulse control, and decision-making. Here are some suggestions to support parents in this situation:
Educate yourself: Learn more about executive functioning challenges and how they can affect teenagers. Understanding the specific difficulties your teen may face will help you approach their challenges with empathy and patience.
Establish routines and structures: Teens with executive functioning challenges often benefit from clear routines and structures. Help your teen create a consistent schedule for their daily activities, including homework, chores, and leisure time. Use visual aids or calendars to make the routine more tangible.
Break tasks into smaller steps: Help your teen break down complex tasks into smaller, manageable steps. This approach can reduce overwhelm and make it easier for them to start and complete tasks. Guide them through the process initially, and gradually encourage them to do it independently.
Set realistic goals: Teach your teen how to set realistic and achievable goals. Encourage them to set specific objectives and help them develop strategies to reach those goals. Celebrate their successes and provide support when they face setbacks.
Use visual aids and reminders: Visual aids, such as checklists, charts, or color-coded calendars, can be beneficial for teens with executive functioning challenges. They can help with organizing tasks, managing time, and remembering important deadlines or responsibilities.
Teach organizational skills: Help your teen develop organizational skills by teaching them how to use planners, organizers, and digital tools. Show them effective strategies for keeping track of assignments, due dates, and other important information.
Encourage self-reflection and problem-solving: Teach your teen to reflect on their strengths and weaknesses and to identify strategies that work best for them. Encourage them to problem-solve and find alternative solutions when faced with difficulties.
Provide support, but encourage independence: Offer support and guidance when needed, but also encourage your teen to take responsibility for their actions and decisions. Gradually give them more independence and foster their self-reliance.
Foster self-care and stress management: Help your teen understand the importance of self-care, stress management, and healthy coping mechanisms. Encourage activities such as exercise, mindfulness, and maintaining social connections to support their overall well-being.
Seek professional help if necessary: If your teen's executive functioning challenges significantly impact their daily functioning and well-being, consider seeking professional help. A psychologist, ADHD or EF coach can provide further guidance, strategies, and interventions tailored to your teen's specific needs. Speech Pathologists can advise too.
Remember, each teenage and young adult learns differently and is unique, and what works for one may not work for another.
Lori Melnitsky is a certified ADHD Coach, EF Specialist and a parent of a young adult who learned to overcome challenges and graduate at the top of her class in college.