My Teen’s Developing Executive Functioning Skills

Anyone who has spent time around teens knows that they develop at different rates both physically and emotionally; however, many people would be surprised to know that the teenage brain actually isn’t fully developed until they are in their mid-20s. This means that a teenager’s executive functioning skills also aren’t developed. For those who don’t know, executive functioning skills are skills that are required to manage oneself and one’s resources in order to achieve various goals in life. This encompasses neurological skills such as self-regulation and mental focus. In fact, there are a variety of skills that teens are working to develop as they grow.

Conflict Resolution

There are many different conflicts that might develop, particularly during a time as volatile as high school. Teens need help resolving conflicts with friends, coaches, teachers, and teammates. Sometimes, it might be better to let teens fend for themselves and develop conflict resolution skills through their own experience. Parents might be wondering when they should step in and help their child with conflict resolution. It is a delicate balance between letting the teen fend for themselves and stepping in to help their children avoid a mistake that might impact their future.

Risk Assessment

Most people understand that risk and reward are a delicate balance; however, it is important to help teens assess those risks and decide on an appropriate course of action. Risky behavior such as drinking or drugs absolutely deserves the intervention of the parents; however, taking a risk by going on vacation, trying out for a sports team, or applying for a job should be the responsibility of the teen. It is important for parents to talk to teenagers about how to properly assess risks and decide when the reward on the other side might be worth the chance.

Emotional Control

Anyone who has spent time around teenagers understands that emotional control is a problem for teenagers, particularly when they have mood swings. As long as teens aren’t making poor decisions, it might be appropriate for parents to let their teen get their emotions out and learn how to manage their emotions on their own. This is a key time where teens are growing and developing in more ways than one. Emotional control is one of those key facets of growth and development for teens.

Independence

Independence typically isn’t an area where teens struggle, especially since teens seem to naturally assert their independence on their own; however, it is important to let the child know that the parents are still there to support their child regardless of the situation. The fact remains that teenagers are still children who need the support, love, and attention of their parents. Give teens an appropriate leash to develop that independence but make sure the children know that their parents are still there to help out in any situation that is required.

Attention and Focus

It’s not unusual for teens to struggle with attention and focus either in the classroom, with an instrument, or on the athletic field. In fact, in the age of technology, there is a myriad of distractions that can actually pose problems for teens in the classroom. It is important for parents to monitor the grades of their children and make sure that they aren’t slipping. If this starts to happen, parents should talk to their children about the attention and focus they are paying in school, or lack thereof, and seek help if required. Many children struggle to pay attention in the classroom and this can impact their future.

Organizational Skills

Many parents become frustrated when they realize that their kids aren’t as organized as they would like. The picture is the same across many households with papers sticking out of backpacks, clothes layering the floor like an archeological dig site, and a car that is filled with food wrappers and drink bottles. It is important for parents to talk to their children about the importance of organization; however, it is also important to pick the right time. Eventually, the teen is going to lose something that is important to them. As they realize their mistake, this might be the best time for parents to broach the subject of organization with their child.

Resisting Peer Pressure

Peer pressure is ubiquitous throughout all levels of school, particularly in high school. This is an important conversation that parents need to have with their kids. Just because other kids are drinking or doing drugs at parties doesn’t mean that their teen needs to do so as well. It could be something as simple as holding a drink in the hand to tell people that they already have a drink or, simply, just saying no. Peer pressure is a key issue that every parent should address with their teen when the time is right.

Follow Through

It is absolutely vital for teens to learn from an early age that following through on their word is important. If people make plans, they need to keep them. Flaking is a surefire way to lose friends, relationships, and networking ability. It could be as simple as teaching teens to make a calendar so that they don’t forget the plans that they have made. If their child makes a plan with someone, particularly a significant other, it is important to follow through. Teens need to learn to always keep their word.

Manage a Schedule

Time management is a key skill that every teen needs to learn. Teens who are involved in many different activities outside of the classroom are going to learn this faster than others. It is important to learn how to prioritize the tasks that come up over the course of the day. Learn to manage what has to be done immediately and what has to wait. In some ways, it might be better for teens to learn this through a trial by fire. This will also help kids to be more efficient with their work.

Plan Ahead

The people who wind up stressed in life are the people who are unable to plan ahead. These are the individuals that arrive chronically late or forget about plans that they have made. Parents need to talk to their teens about the importance of planning ahead. This could mean planning for a college future or simply looking ahead to next week. The fact remains that planning ahead can be a great way to relieve the stress of the high school years. Parents should talk to teens about keeping a planner to help manage the many day to day activities that teens have to complete.

It’s not unusual for parents to feel confused and frustrated about how to manage their teen through a tough stage of life. In fact, there are great quizzes for teens that can help to identify areas of improvement in the life skills that have been discussed above. In fact, there are also quizzes for adults who might be struggling with the same issue and children who might have questions about what they are going through. It can be difficult for parents to manage their teenagers through these crucial years; however, teenagers need to be reminded that their parents are there for them in their time of need.


SOURCE: Smart But Scattered Teens by Richard Guare PhD (Author), Peg Dawson EdD (Author), Colin Guare (Author)

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