How can an Executive Functioning Coach help my child?

December 13, 2022

How can an Executive Functioning Coach help my child?

There is a lot of buzz these days about executive functioning skills and how coaching can help kids, teens and adults. But what exactly are executive functioning skills, and why should parents care?

Marlena Reese, Ed.D., the new Executive Functioning Coach at the Horwitz-Zusman Child & Family Center offered her professional expertise.

What are Executive Functioning skills?

Dr. Reese: Executive Functioning skills help us focus, plan, prioritize, and work towards goals. They help us self-regulate behaviors and emotions, and adapt to new and unexpected situations. These skills develop at different rates in children and with windows of growth and opportunities for intervention. Challenges with these skills can impact school, home, and family life.

Executive Functioning skills include working memory, attention, time management, organization, meta cognition, task management, response inhibition, thinking before talking, emotional control, self-regulation, persistence, flexible thinking, and frustration-tolerance.

Kids that have challenges with these skills appear lazy, unmotivated, or uninterested in learning, when they need help to build executive functioning skills.

What’s an Executive Functioning Coach?

Dr. Reese: An Executive Functioning Coach is a trained professional who can prepare your child to prioritize and plan, set goals, organize school assignments, and work towards life goals. This person is a resource for individualized strategies and tools to help make life feel less overwhelming, and to develop new systems of organization. There isn’t one system of organization that works for everyone. Some people may need color-coded folders, but for some that may just create anxiety. Every brain is different. Everyone has a different way to be organized. When a student comes to me for help, I interview them and find out their study habits, how they remember information, and build on their way of thinking to help develop better habits. Just like a sports coach, I don’t want to change anyone, I want to help them become a better, more regulated, version of themselves. It’s all about Finding YOUR system.

How can an Executive Functioning Coach help your child?

Dr. Reese: I will teach your student new ways to plan, organize, set goals, and manage their workload. I will help them to develop skills such as stress management, mindfulness, and self-awareness, and how to build their executive functioning skills over time.

We will discuss what they think is preventing them from either starting, moving through or completing a task, and what external conditions could be challenging them as well as internal conditions such as negative self-talk. From there, we can work on building a plan to help them when they get stuck.

We can also build skills to support better, sustained attention. I can help them learn who you are, how their brain works, and what accommodations they need to succeed.

Negative self-talk around tasks connects with other abilities to perform tasks. It can feel like a reflection on who you are. I often must undo negative messaging that schooling has put on their understanding of who they are. Ultimately, our goal is for the student to understand themselves differently, and to advocate for themselves, put a lot of guardrails in place, so they can show how smart they really are.

What should parents share with their child when they come to see you?

Dr. Reese: Talk to your child and help them identify goals for themselves. Tell them you want to offer support, and that it will take some time to build these skills. Even the best athletes have coaches, top executives have coaching – it is important to normalize the idea of asking for help.

What are three insights you can share about education and executive functioning?

  1. Listening is not learning. Students listen to a lot of content, but that doesn’t always mean they have it down. Learning comes through direct practice. A lot of students think they can listen to something once and know how to do it. You still need to practice that skill, and master that skill. Students often think something is wrong with them because they didn’t get it the first time. But it takes practice.

  2. Frustration tolerance and flexible thinking are important as an employment skill. Think about cancer researchers, or engineers working on new technology. They must have extremely high frustration tolerance, and deal with constant failures in order to move the ball forward. And then they have the fortitude to try again, and again. We need to normalize the idea of failure in order to achieve better results.

  3. When I talk about organization, it is what works for that person to keep track of tasks and goals. It may not look like a parent wants it to look, but still be functional for them to get the job done.

To learn more about Executive Functioning Coaching and schedule your FREE 30-minute consultation, call 770.677.9474.

About Marlena Reese Ed.D, Executive Functioning Coach

Dr. Reese's work specializes in supporting middle school students, college students and adults toward personal success. She is experienced in a diverse range of coaching clients including variety of learning styles and abilities. Areas of specialization include long and short-term planning, study strategies, organization, time management, self-regulation, academic reading/writing/research, navigating school/community resources, support for virtual learning/strategies for online learning, educational and life transitions and assisting parents to develop the skills necessary to support their student at home.

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