In This Issue
You Never Know When You Need Excellent Executive Functions!

I am hoping that all of you are relaxing and enjoying the pool, ocean, or air conditioning! Even with summer schedules, I hope it feels less hectic than the pace during the school year. However, this is NOT what I am experiencing this summer. In the first week of June, I tripped on a carpet and broke my right wrist; I knew it the second I landed on the floor! One positive is that I'm a lefty, so I had no trouble writing and working! I had never had a cast before, so I had no idea what I was in for. Right away, my brain started saying that I needed to find compensatory strategies to get me through the 6-8 weeks of being in a cast, which by the way, feels like a vice on your arm and fingers! So, I called upon my executive functioning skills to help me out!

I needed cognitive flexibility to set myself up to manage with this cast on. 

1. My vitamins and all bottles, like shampoo and face wash had to be opened and left with the cap loosely fitted around the bottle - okay, I asked for help on this one and the task was accomplished!

2. I was having trouble in and out of the shower, so what did I do? What we all do - searched Amazon and got what I needed - a long handle with a sponge on the end to help one-handed washing!

3. Typing on the computer was very painful, so I used what I tell my students to use: speech to text. It transcribed about 80% of what I said correctly, so I used my left hand to make the changes.
The last thing is time management. My speed of accomplishing any task was WAY slower with a broken wrist. How could I NOT be on time? That would be terrible. So, I started planning every move with forward thinking and working backwards from the deadline, which is exactly what we tell all out wonderful clients to do! I looked at all my appointments and added anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour for on time arrivals. Actually, I think I should train the airlines to use the same strategy! This was not an easy task, and it meant less sleep, but hey, who can sleep with a broken wrist, anyway??
I'm happy to report that seven weeks have passed, and my cast is now off. I thought I would be totally fine once the bone was healed, but no, now I have to counteract the side effects of having an immobile arm for 6 ½ weeks. Oh well, I will need to continue to use my Excellent Executive Functions to help me navigate all the physical therapy I now have to endure. But I am grateful to have these skills in place, and I ask all of you to remember the organization strategies that you learn while working with Thinking Organized. You need them every day, and sometimes when you least expect it. Finally, if you ever find yourself in a cast (and I truly hope you don't), call me. I'll give you the specific executive functioning skills for broken bones!
AUGUST  2019
Teaching Students How to Self-Regulate 
As adults, we tend to tell our children that something is not as bad as they think it is. Even if they have three hours of homework, two tests to study for, and a project to complete, this does not even compare to the "real world." However, when we trivialize the frustrations that our children face regarding their academics, we inadvertently dissuade them from  learning how to self-regulate. Our children begin to wonder why they are unable to keep up with their workload, and this may lead to a loss of motivation, resistance to completing their work, or emotional outbursts. With the school year fast approaching, summer is the perfect time to teach and practice self-regulation strategies with your children. 

Children with executive functioning challenges often struggle to manage their emotions and behavior in a variety of settings. They may throw a tantrum at home or start crying in the middle of class because they do not know how to control their impulses or how to productively handle a situation. To teach your children how to self-regulate, there are several strategies you can try to implement. However, keep in mind that many children cannot adopt these techniques right away; they need time and repetition to learn a strategy, figure out its effectiveness, and consistently utilize it. Manage your own expectations as a parent by looking for success of approximation toward a goal.

Model.  When your children feel overwhelmed with a task, model how you would handle the same situation and ask your children to pinpoint which specific elements of the workload are causing them stress. However, be aware that it is often difficult for children to express what they are feeling. If they cannot articulate their emotions, explain how you struggle with similar tasks, and try to work towards a solution together. In either case, clearly describe the emotions that are apparent in the situation (e.g., "I feel anxious about writing this essay because I have not done well on my past essays") and explain how to channel these emotions in a productive manner by breaking the workload down into smaller, more manageable pieces. By setting an example, your children will be better prepared to handle challenging tasks on their own and will not feel as though it is impossible to initiate a task. 

Role-play.  Brainstorm potential stressful scenarios with your children; these can be school-related, sports-related, or anything that your children feel they had a hard time managing within the past year. Ask them to think back on how they handled the situation and discuss alternative ways they could react if a similar scenario occurred in the future. For example, if they tore up their math homework because it was too hard, have them explain why that reaction was inappropriate and what they could have done differently. It is important for your children to take an active approach in identifying emotional situations and prepare for them in advance. Role-playing with a parent, sibling, or friend offers them a chance to try a variety of emotional responses and receive feedback on which ones are appropriate.

Validate feelings.  Sometimes, our children may seem to have extremely strong reactions to a seemingly minor situation. Instead of telling your children that they are reacting inappropriately, try to first validate their feelings. Acknowledge that you understand why they are feeling this way, and invite them to share why they think they are experiencing a certain emotion. Discussing their feelings can help them realize whether they overreacted and learn how to more appropriately handle a similar situation in the future. Of course, many children may feel embarrassed to share their feelings, or feel ill-equipped to express them. In these situations, do not push your children to come up with an answer. Instead, discuss what constitutes an "appropriate" reaction to a situation. 

If your children yell at their teacher because they did not have enough time to copy down all of the notes on the board, clearly explain to your children that even though they were right to feel frustrated, yelling is not an appropriate response because it upsets other people and does not solve the problem. By validating their emotions while also explaining that they expressed themselves in a less-than-ideal way, your children learn that it is okay to have these emotions. In turn, this can make them more willing to try self-regulation strategies. 

School brings a unique combination of stressors that may be challenging for children to appropriately handle if they do not know how to express their emotions in a conducive way. In addition to using the parental techniques discussed earlier, there are also methods your children can use on their own to practice self-regulating. If your children find a strategy that works for them, encourage them to use it multiple times; even if they do not find the same level of success with it during each instance, a habit, such as learning how to self-regulate, can only be formed with consistent practice, time, and effort. 

Make lists.  Whether it is for school assignments or chores, encourage your children to make lists of the tasks they need to complete. Writing information down helps us better remember it, and your children can check off each item as they complete it. This increases their accountability and promotes follow-through, as they experience a sense of accomplishment at checking off finished items. Creating lists also shows your children that when they have a concrete idea of the tasks they need to finish, they are likely to feel less overwhelmed because they have a goal they are working towards. 

Calming techniques.  Sometimes, something as simple as taking a deep breath can work wonders. When your children feel overwhelmed with a task, have them take a deep breath and count to ten. They can also try using concrete, sensory-based techniques as well, such as focusing on visual, auditory, and kinesthetic stimuli. By concentrating on something that seems "real" and more manageable, children are better able to manage their emotions. There are also several apps, such as Noisli and Mindfulness, that children can use to create a soothing mental and physical environment that allows them to more clearly think through the stressors in a given situation.

Draw.  If your children are artistic, they may be better able to express themselves with pictures rather than with words because this outlook enables them to explore their emotions in a creative way. Before starting a task, encourage your children to draw how it makes them feel; after breaking it down into smaller pieces and initiating it, have them draw another picture that reflects their current mood. Your children will now have a visual representation of the changes in their emotional state and realize how the task was perhaps not as intimidating as they first thought it was. When children are more aware of their emotions, they are more likely to control their impulses and act in appropriate ways.

Self-regulating is an important component of executive functioning, but it requires careful thought, constant work, time, and maturation. As your children try new strategies, reinforce the ones that appear effective and do not be alarmed if the success rate with a particular strategy varies. Children need time to grow, and exploring new methods and figuring out which ones work best for them teaches them how to take an active role in managing their emotions.