5 Ways to Enhance Executive Function in Teens and Tweens

Executive functioning is an important skill and a core component of academic success. Here are 5 ways to enhance executive function in teens and tweens!

Before we delve into these awesome strategies, it’s important to keep in mind what executive functioning skills actually contribute towards. Here are just some of the critical functions of this important skill set:

  • Planning, organization, and goal setting
  • Time management and prioritization
  • Attention span
  • Emotional regulation
  • Self-directed learning
  • Memory and recall ability
  • Flexible thinking (seeing from another’s point of view)

Here are a few tips to help develop these valuable skills in teens and tweens!

1. Help create a planner or schedule. Developing a good system to manage your student’s assignments is a great way to build executive functioning skills. Planning and organizational skills are used when creating a list of weekly assignments, and color-coding tasks can help with prioritizing the most important responsibilities. Check out our guide from creating a planner that works for you!

2. Encourage self-expression during difficult moments. Let your tween/teen know that you are there to provide an open ear if they need to talk, especially during challenging times. “Venting” to someone else can be a healthy way to relieve stress, and this process helps with building emotional regulation skills. If your student is dealing with a situation that involves another party, encourage them to try seeing the situation from multiple perspectives. This is an excellent way of encouraging flexible thinking!

3. Create a dedicated homework space. Provide your student with a quiet area to complete their homework assignments free of distractions. This includes unnecessary electronic devices like televisions and cell phones! The environment should also be well lit with all the student’s materials within arm’s reach. The goal is to minimize all possible distractions and interruptions your teen/tween might experience during a homework session. Creating an environment that encourages active learning can help to improve a student’s attention span, ability to focus, and retention of information (memory).

4. Ask them to evaluate their own understanding. This may sound rather obvious, but try asking your teen/tween directly about how confident they are in their own academic abilities in various subjects. Not only is this a great way of identifying areas that can be improved, but it’s also a good exercise in self-reflection and self-evaluation, two core components of executive function.

5. Encourage hobbies. Help your teen/tween find an engaging activity they are truly passionate about. For example – playing a musical instrument, or building miniature models. Many of these activities also build executive functioning skills, from planning to self-directed learning. However, it’s often easier to develop these skills during a past-time you genuinely enjoy (as opposed to an assigned responsibility, like homework). If your teen/tween has a hobby that they find engaging, definitely encourage them to pursue their passions!