Think back to when you transitioned from elementary school to middle school. There was so much more variety of classes and different teachers, you could sit anywhere for lunch, and it all felt like such a big step toward freedom. You might have had a locker and a PE locker (two combinations to remember!), band equipment, club meetings or sport practice. But with that freedom also came more responsibility: for writing down all of those assignments, getting everything turned in on time, balancing the clubs and extracurriculars with 7 teachers who did not communicate or coordinate with each other, and remembering to bring home those PE clothes at least once a month for washing!
Now think of your child’s middle school experience. They have all of this and more. They have peer pressure to have a smartphone and they have the distractions and immediate gratification of such devices stealing their attention. They may have some teachers that post assignments online while others have them written on a whiteboard. There are different ways to turn in assignments – digitally or by hand. Some of their books are online and some are paper. It can all seem very disjointed. Add a diagnosis like ADHD, and your child might be headed for a big reality check once the handholding of elementary school has ended.
Where to Begin?
Look at your student’s executive functioning skills – and have them do an honest self-assessment. Do they have terrible organizational skills? Do they struggle to plan and prioritize if they have work due for every class? Is it nearly impossible even just to begin the work? How is their time management and follow through? Can they identify what is getting in the way when they are having a hard time? Is it a lack of interest or motivation or focus? Do they get anxious or overly emotional?
Problem solving some of these issues will help your child get in front of their predictable challenges, while saving you from having to constantly nag. Parents can take a step back and provide just enough structure and accountability without having to micromanage. Strengthening executive functioning skills while receiving this level of parent support is the best way to improve things like organization, time management, task initiation, follow through, planning and more.
If your teen is in middle school or is just showing signs of these struggles in high school as the work gets harder, you are ahead of the game. If your teen’s challenges have gotten progressively worse and they are well into high school, it is still not too late. We can grow and improve at any age and having the mindset to do that is the first step.
You can find executive functioning skills assessments and tips in my workbook for teens, Practical Solutions for ADHD Workbook for Teens, available on Amazon for $9.95. I walk teens through each executive functioning skill and give them ideas for how they can help themselves improve.
Learning Style and Study Skills
Do you know your preferred learning style (auditory, visual, kinesthetic)? Do you know your child’s? This is important information that helps guide how we can most effectively study. For example, a method such as making flash cards and being quizzed out loud may work well for an auditory or kinesthetic learner, but not a visual learner. A visual learner may benefit from re-reading notes, making visual connections with the material, or watching a video. I am primarily an auditory learner, so tossing me a manual and telling me to read directions is not how I would best learn how to operate a new appliance.
You can take a quick quiz on a site such as VARK. There are different options for adults or for younger people.
My teen workbook also has a section on study skills and personal development. If your teen could benefit from live instruction in executive functioning skills, I offer a 4-week online class. Each class is about an hour long and we learn about three executive functioning skills plus complementary study skills and personal development, such as goal setting and finding motivation. I have my next round of classes beginning in September 2023 – join me by registering your student.
I love helping teenagers in these classes! I hope to see them there!