Are You Enabling or Empowering Your Child?

Empower don't enableWe all want our children to grow up to be responsible, successful members of society. Isn’t that what you want for your child? So, we “help” them at every turn so that they can make it to school on time, complete their homework perfectly, and get good grades.

But are you really helping or are you harming them?

Let me explain. If your child or teen has ADHD then you know that they struggle with routines, focus and remembering what they need to do as well as, doing what they know they need to do. You may feel that if you don’t remind your teen then they would never get out the door in the morning or finish their homework. And you may be right.

However, providing them with the information they need before they have had time to consider what comes next, does not help them develop the necessary skills to become independent instead it makes them dependent.

Think about these questions:

    1.  Are you helping your son or daughter create a routine to get out the door (with everything they need) or are you telling them what to do each day? (Ex. get your shoes on, did you brush your  teeth,  do you have your homework? And on and on.)
    2.  Are you empathizing and really trying to understand what they are feeling or are you just trying to solve their problem by telling them what they “should” do?
    3.  Are you checking their homework and making them correct it so that the teacher doesn’t know that they are struggling with it?
    4.  Are you reminding them of everything they have to do so that they don’t have to remember on their own?
    5.  Are you waking them up in the morning?

If you answered “yes” to even one of these questions, please keep reading because although you may think you are helping your children, in reality you are not. When you take away your child’s opportunity to problem solve by either telling them what they should do, or by doing it for them, not only do you handicap them from learning the skills but, you are chipping away at their self-esteem and self-confidence and fostering their dependence rather than independence.

For those with ADHD, learning routines and habits can take a bit longer than it does for those without ADHD (66 times). So it is important to start building the skills early so that by the time they get to high school, you have done your job and your teen is pretty independent. You want to feel confident that they can make it on their own at college. On the other hand, if you wait until they are a senior to start “letting go” and just drop the support you have been providing all along, they may not have the skills they need to succeed in college.

So, how can you empower them instead?

    1. Work on one thing at a time. Together decide what it will be. Empower your teen to come up with their own solutions just be sure to include how they want you to “support” them in this new process.
    2. Instead of saying you “should”…..try asking questions that lead to your teen figuring out their own solutions. Ex. “What do you think you could do to figure that out?” “How can you prevent that from happening again?”
    3. Learn about Executive Function skills so that you and your teen can better pinpoint which skill is weak. Is it getting started on things (task initiation), remembering (working memory) or finishing things (task completion) etc.? Weaknesses can occur in several executive functions but often there are EFs that are strengths as well. What looks like several areas of weakness could be the same EF showing up in a different context. How can you use the strengths to help compensate for the weaknesses?
    4. Change comes from within but here are three questions to ask that can help. Can the environment be changed to better accommodate for the weakness? Can the task be broken down into more manageable steps so that it is not so overwhelming? Does there need to be a system or a routine created to assist in solving this?
    5. Lastly, consider whether or not you are too close to the situation to really be able to help, or if you are finding it difficult to remain nonjudgmental then it may be time to find an Executive Function Coach or Counselor to work with your teen.

Jodi Sleeper-Triplett said this in her book Empowering Youth with ADHD:

…empowerment is about much more than helping the young person with ADHD accomplish goals: It’s about helping the young person identify strengths and resources; practice thinking about how to solve problems and meet goals; build skills; develop a positive self-image; and ultimately, lay a foundation for long-term success in the days, months and years to come. (p35)

And who doesn’t want that for their teen?

Basic Week Routine to the Rescue!

Routines save timeThere are two kinds of people – those that love routines and those that don’t. Which are you?

If you don’t love routines, it may be because you feel they are too restrictive, too boring or just too hard. After all, who wants to do something 66 times before it becomes automatic?

However, if you know the value of routines, then you probably appreciate the automaticity of it – following through without any real effort or brain power. Routines can keep your life on track when everything around you is falling apart. Instead of constantly trying to juggle all that is on your plate, a routine can add structure to your day and save you time, effort and money.

Routines

The most common routines are the morning, or get out of the house routine, and an evening, get ready for bed routine. There are all kinds of routines and frequencies for doing them. I encourage the students I work with to create a homework routine. They think of all the steps they should take before, during and after homework and then combine them into a routine that works for them. It may include what to do when they get home such as having a snack, taking an activity break, a body check, checking the agenda and deciding what’s important – all before even getting started. Students save themselves time by addressing all the usual distractions like hunger, thirst, feeling tired, and the “I don’t know where to start”, dilemma.

Create A Basic Week Plan

You can do the same thing by creating a routine for the things you do during your week. I call it a “basic week plan”, because it tells me when to do the basic things each week. Start with a list of the things you spend time doing throughout a typical week for yourself and your family; things like laundry, grocery shopping, bill paying, etc. If you’ve ever had to run to the grocery store for something you need for dinner that is already late, or had to pay a late fee, or missed the return window on an item that you don’t want, you know it can disrupt your day and steal valuable time you could use for yourself.

Now that you have your list, decide which day of the week would fit with your regular schedule rather than having “urgency” dictate the use of your time.

Match the task to a day:

Task                                                             Day

Laundry                                                            Monday

Groceries/Meal Planning                              Tuesday

Cleaning                                                           Wednesday

Errands                                                             Thursday

Mail/Paperwork                                              Friday

Organizing/Planning/Household Maintenance

Once you decide on the day of the week, try it out. See what it feels like to get the big stuff done during the week and have your weekend for fun and relaxation.

With fewer random or spontaneous tasks and errands taking up what little free time you have in your life, you may find the benefits of a basic week plan far outweigh the rigidity you think of in a routine. And wouldn’t it be nice to reduce the stress and the hurry in your day and to also have some time for yourself?

Recap:

  • Routines add structure to your day
  • Routines take less brain power and prevent decision fatigue
  • Routines, like a basic week plan, save you time and effort by minimizing extra errands and last-minute trips
  • Routines save money
  • Routines keep life moving even through the bumpy times

What do you need a routine for?

Action Today = Better Learning Tomorrow

Reading books, lots of themCalling all parents….do you want to help your child/teen complete their homework more efficiently, study more effectively for tests and ultimately improve their learning and their grades?

Time is running out. We’re in term 3. The early Spring is often the most difficult time for students to stay motivated and to keep up with their work. Keep it positive and read on for tips to put into action today for better results tomorrow.

Homework Efficiency:

        • Work together to set a homework routine. Include a specific start time.
        • Create a distraction free environment – TV off even if it is in another room. Phones on airplane mode or out of the room.
        • Do not interrupt them while they are working as they can lose their focus.
        • Do not “check” their homework accuracy, that is the teacher’s job.
        • Make sure they take short, 5-10 minute, breaks after working for 20-30 minutes. It helps the brain recharge and allows the brain to process new information.

Study Effectively:

    • Encourage students to write down upcoming test dates and then to plan backwards so that they have at least 3 opportunities to review the information before the test. Spaced repetition has been shown to be an effective study technique.
    • Foster a growth mindset, discourage negative self-talk and focus on the positives. Punishments do not encourage better grades.
    • Simply reading new information retains maybe 10% but being an active learner by asking questions, summarizing the reading, drawing a mindmap, or creating flashcards leads to more retention and better understanding of concepts.
    • Have your child “teach” you or even the dog, key concepts. They need to be able to explain them in their own words and just not verbatim from the text or study guide. Quiz them on vocabulary, including math vocabulary to be sure they understand what the words means.
    • Don’t save studying until after the homework, as it is best when the brain is fresh and energized

Improve Learning:

    • Eat together whenever you can and engage in meaningful conversations about various topics. Discussions promote communication skills, critical thinking and listening skills and develops confidence.
    • Read. Whether it is reading to your child, with your child or they are reading independently, show that reading is important by reading at the same time.
    • Make learning fun by going to museums, libraries, zoos and vacationing activities that promote learning new things.
    • Encourage their interests and provide opportunities to explore hobbies, deep dive into subjects of interest and use their skills in the “real world.” (Ex. Baking, cooking dinner, planning a vacation, or researching a topic.)
    • Praise your child’s efforts and encourage them to see challenges as opportunities to learn and not as failures. Take the emphasis off of the grades and focus it on encouraging them to become lifelong learners capable of learning anything they set their mind to.

That’s how we encourage learning and growing and can develop the habits and routines that all students need to be successful. It only takes one “bad” experience in a subject to demotivate and defeat an otherwise very capable student.

Graphic thanks to Pixabay.

Use Your ADHD Super Powers and Get More Done!

ADHD Super PowersJanuary 1st is meant to encourage thoughts of possibilities but it can also be a reminder of the previous year’s disappointments. For 2024, let’s make a deal, there’s enough negativity in the world, let’s focus on the positive this year. Are you in?

It’s time to embrace our neurodiversity and use our strengths to get things done. Every January there are numerous resolution strategies offered to make this your “best year ever”. Strategies such as having a word, theme, or intention for the year are plentiful. Setting SMART goals and breaking them down into small action steps may work for some, but the statistics say differently. Many people give up within two weeks of the new year. Here’s a clip from npr.org for reasons why.

This year though, let’s try to make small improvements using our ADHD Super Powers such as: being creative and thinking outside the box, being a problem solver, having high energy and being able to pivot when necessary. Also, let’s not forget the ability to hyperfocus.

If the goal is to “get the right things done,” then let’s see how the ADHD Super Powers can help.

Super Power: You are creative:

Your ideas are innovative, often more involved than they need to be, but still creative and you often come up with non-traditional solutions that can solve problems. Watch for places where a creative solution could save you time and energy and fix it when you can. For example:

    • If you have been procrastinating on a task, add some creativity to it, gamify it, break it down into teeny, tiny doable steps to easily cross off or work on it with a friend.
    • Make it a game with the family to race around and put things away so you start each day fresh
    • Dislike using a traditional planner, then create your own system by making it work for you and the way you think.

Super Power: You have high energy:

Your energy level is often directly related to your level of motivation and of course the basics like sleep and self-care. If you find yourself with lots of energy to spare:

    • Knocking off several mini tasks will keep the dopamine level up and that makes everything easier.
    • Be sure to have a list to look at filled with those mini tasks so you don’t have to try and think of them in the moment.
    • Keep track of all you do accomplish – it’s much better to focus on what did get done rather than what didn’t.

Super Power: You can pivot quickly and change course or task:

If something more urgent comes up you are able to change gears and quickly dive into it. You are often multi-tasking and that means you are only using 50% of your brain (because you are actually switching from one task to the other and back) but you can assess what is needed and get on it. If you do have to pivot:

    • Be sure to leave yourself a note of where to pick up on the current project, before you jump to the urgent one.
    • You are able to find ways to make things easier and are open to unexpected solutions
    • Life happens – when the unexpected happens, being able to easily pivot can provide other options and solutions minimizing the disruptions.

Super Power: You can Hyperfocus:

Hyperfocus is the ability to sustain attention and focus on the task at hand until it is complete. This often entails either high interest on your part, a looming deadline, or urgency from someone else. It does use up a lot of brain power so be careful how often you use it.

    • You have the ability to deep dive into a project or area of interest so set a timer or reminder notification before beginning so you don’t miss something else.
    • Use hyperfocus to develop the skills needed for a new hobby or a side hustle.
    • The increase in focus can lead to more creative solutions and an increase in attention to details that may not happen with frequent interruptions. Let others around you know that you don’t want to be interrupted.

A change in perspective is needed if you feel that your ADHD is the reason you “can’t” get things done, are always late or forget things. Use your ADHD superpowers to come up with creative strategies and solutions for those challenges and add some fun into each day. What do you want to remember 2024 for? What do you need to do to make that a reality? Use your super powers:-)

Secrets to Helping Kids with ADHD

ADHD, is it a superpower or kryptonite at home or at school? The truth is, it is probably both depending on the situation. All students want to learn, they often feel a great deal of pressure to “learn” and be able to show that learning when it is called for. How can you help your child learn to use their ADHD as a superpower and minimize the effects of kryptonite? Here are three ways to ensure better outcomes.

ADHD and the Brain

    1. Understand that ADHD is a chemical imbalance in the brain. That means that without enough dopamine and other neurotransmitter chemicals, messages are disrupted on their way from one side of the brain to the other. When everything is working the messages make it, but often they make it half way or more likely, they vanish – sometimes temporarily and other times, without a trace – forgotten.

Probable causes: interruptions, distractions or brain and body are trying to make their needs known. Working memory is responsible for holding onto all the information we need at the time to complete a task or solve a problem. When it is working at capacity and something or someone interrupts, something has to go. Sometimes it is easy to get it back and other times, your child has to start back at the beginning adding more time and stress to whatever they were doing.

When an ADHD brain is hungry, thirsty, tired or fidgety, it is best to stop and give it what it needs. The brain is always monitoring and sends out signals to get noticed until the problem is resolved.

Suggestions: Make sure your child or teen gets enough sleep, eats healthy, is active and has a snack with protein before beginning homework. Praise their effort. Remove distractions that you can and save your questions for later.

2. Impulsivity is often a kryptonite side effect of ADHD. It is like the pause button is broken, or that little voice in your head that warns you before you get in trouble or hurt, is asleep. I have also heard that it is a way the brain seeks out more stimulus because it is feeling like it doesn’t have enough. Impulse control is an executive function that isn’t fully developed until age 25, yet we ask children to control it long before then. Whatever the reasons, kids need a way to help themselves before they get in trouble.

Suggestions: One way to separate the impulsivity from the child is to call it something. Give it a name that you can refer to that separates it from your child’s sense of self. (Ex. The Cracken, Kevin (from the movie UP, Wacko Willy, etc.) Use humor when they show up and discuss what else Wacko Willy might have done instead.

Set clear expectations on behaviors before going somewhere. Make sure your child has a fidget in their pocket and use this 3-step model taken from Sarah Ward called: Stop, Think, Act.

When you notice emotions are building up, your child needs to: Stop (Take a few breaths, walk away, go outside, or chill in their room). Then have them think what started that, or what happened right before they got upset? Now, problem solve and brainstorm ideas that are more appropriate and use them to act next time.

3. Motivation is a challenge. An ADHD brain struggles with tasks that are boring, complex or difficult. If you are trying to motivate your child to complete something that falls under one of those categories, it may be as frustrating for you as it is for them. No one wants to mess up but, often those with ADHD are seen as messing up more often than their peers. The most common ways teachers and parents try to motivate is to take-away privileges. Or promising rewards so far in the future that the child feels they will never get it anyway. Rewards or punishments have little effect other than making children feel “bad” about themselves. This causes the brain to become stressed and a stressed brain cannot think clearly. That seems like a no-win situation.

Suggestions: According to Additude Magazine, “When you praise your child, it creates dopamine — the neurotransmitter his or her brain lacks, which causes the ADHD symptoms — and the dopamine helps to better control behavior. So, he or she can do more wonderful tomorrow.”  Increase the positive/negative ratio as it takes 3-5 positives to outweigh 1 negative.

Learning happens when students are willing to learn, and have strategies that work for them. However, most important is that they feel good about themselves. So, use lots of praise (about their effort), humor and help them understand how they learn best. If school is a positive experience, then their superpower may one day make the world a better place.

Want to learn more strategies to help your child or teen succeed with ADHD? Then join our next Thriving with ADHD in the Family Parent Class.

Are You on Santa’s Stressed List?

Santa's Stessed ListStress. It’s a word we hear every day and I am sure it means different things to each of us (including our kids). The World Health Organization defines stress as, “a state of worry or mental tension caused by a difficult situation. It is a natural human response that prompts us to address challenges and threats to our lives.”  Back in the “early” days, stress was meant to protect us from the dangers out in the world and keep us safe. These days it feels more like a byproduct of our everyday lives. Even the general pace of our society can sometimes (no, probably often at this time of year) feel like it is going too fast for us to process and is one stressful event after another.

Just to be clear, I am talking about the stress we bring on ourselves – the temporary type* that can often be mitigated if we had the ability for “do-overs.” Think about the last time you stopped and realized you were feeling overly stressed. What happened just before that?

Common Stressors:

      • Did you say, “yes” to one or ten more things you knew you didn’t have time for?
      • Or did you forget something important and then had to scramble to make it right?
      • Did you lose something important?
      • Were you late for an appointment?
      • Did you stay up later than you knew you should?

All of these, and many more can increase your stress level. Imagine if you could rewind time and try again. Would you be able to identify what got in the way and caused your stress and then be able to prevent it (or at least reduce its impact)? What would that feel like?

Now figure out what you can do to get that feeling.

What ideas did you come up with? I know you are in the mad, almost the holidays rush but, maybe you can make some notes for next year.  Trust me, your “future self” will thank you if you leave some hints and actions to take to manage your stress level.

Here are some ideas to think about:

      • Get more sleep (dark rooms, lowering lights in the evening and using lamps not overheads)
      • Exercise
      • Build a self-care toolbox of things that help recharge you and schedule time in for you
      • Create routines that work for you and the family
      • Limit changes to plans at the last minute – it is okay to say “no”
      • Feeling prepared helps melt stress so make a realistic plan and then work it
      • Smart tech use – sure the dopamine hit feels good at the time but then that time is gone
      • No negative self-talk – your brain believes what it hears
      • Declutter the things you no longer need and that only interfere with you being able to find what you need quickly
      • Lastly, organize your spaces. Where is the logical spot for that? Where would a hook work for your keys? What would make your life easier and save you time? Add that to your to do list.

When you understand you have options, you can take action. Even baby steps in the right direction, will still get you there.

Four Productivity Hacks for an ADHD Brain

ADHD signsOctober is National ADHD Awareness Month and so in tribute, let’s bring some awareness to how ADHD can interfere in your life and what you can do about it. First of all, ADHD or its side effects, has nothing to do with intelligence. It has a neurobiological (read chemical) basis related to the neurotransmitter hormone levels in your brain. Those chemicals are responsible for transmitting messages from one side of the brain to the other. Sometimes they complete their mission and sometimes you forget part or all of that previous thought.

ADHD is often related to weaknesses in Executive Function skills. Those are the processes that are the last to fully develop and are in the pre-frontal cortex of the brain. It’s interesting that those EFs (task initiation, inhibit, monitor, planning/organization, working memory, organization of materials, cognitive and behavioral shift and task completion) are necessary for completing most projects (and homework too).

It’s easy to see how difficulty planning can cause us to work harder and longer than we really need to simply because our plan is not the most efficient or cohesive. When that happens, we also may have difficulty getting started, and then watch out when our emotions take over. Can we notice how things are going or do we just jump up and go do something else? When a simple shift in our method, environment or state of mind or body may be all that is needed to stay focused.

An ADHD brain often finds it difficult to persist through boring, complex or difficult tasks as it prefers creative, interesting and fun projects – who doesn’t? When faced with this dilemma, it will seek out stimulation that it prefers and that’s where distractibility comes in. The brain is searching for something to make it “happy” and so it distracts us. Once distracted, since we weren’t monitoring the situation, it is challenging to regain control (inhibit our response) and all that we were holding in our working memory may be forgotten. Thus, adding more time to a task we didn’t want to do in the first place. Making it impossible to complete the task.

So, often it is the brain that is interfering in our ability to complete tasks and not our intelligence, age or state of overwhelm (although that has its own issues). Knowing that, we can be on the lookout for signs and use strategies and routines to mitigate its impact.

Brain and Body Check

First, we want to be sure our brain has everything it needs to be happy. The brain is continually sensing and responding to variations from the norm so it needs to have certain things like food, water, sleep, and safety to begin with. I would also add that stress can impact the brain as well. The higher the stress the less the brain can think and it sets off the fear alarms. Do what you can to be sure the brain and body have what they need and anticipate any needs that may come up while you are working.

Find What Helps Your ADHD Brain Focus

Check around you. Is your environment filled with distractions? Are there any changes you can make to reduce the irritating distractions and include some more helpful ones? Remove the clutter, face away from the window, turn off the TV, add some music, maybe add a few photos that make you smile or a small plant for some fresh oxygen. Read a previous post called Hack Your Workspace for more helpful tips.

Make A Plan

I confess, I am a paper planner (with digital backup) enthusiast. It doesn’t matter if you prefer a notebook, planner, digital calendar, master task list or a spreadsheet but you need to find a way to hold onto the tasks, appointments and ideas that are important to you. If you ask your brain to hold that info, it can hold 5-7 things until something distracts it and your working memory deletes it all. I am sure your task list is longer than 7 items. (The master task list that is….not the plan for today.) Whether you like to plan your day the night before or just start fresh in the morning – here are three questions to ask yourself.

  1. What are my 3 priorities for today?
  2. How much time do I have to spend on each?
  3. Where can I schedule the time to work on each into my day? (Taking into account my energy levels and other commitments in the day)

Work the Plan

Now that you took the time to make the plan, respect it. Don’t ignore the timeframes, if you scheduled a task for a specific time, do it then. Do not wait until you “feel” like it – because that rarely (if ever) happens. In fact, if you are easily distracted, you may want to set an alarm for 15 minutes. Then check in with yourself that you are still focused on the task.

Each task should be a single step and you may have several for each project. If you think about what the end needs to look like, you can easily work backwards to get the individual tasks that need to happen. Each project has a beginning, middle and ending, all the way to the clean up of any materials you used and other completion tasks.

Adults may be able to maintain focus for about 90 minutes, but if that is not you then be sure to break your “on task” time into manageable blocks and take breaks in between. The Pomodoro method uses 25-minute work blocks and a 5-minute break in between. After 4-Pomodoros, a longer break is encouraged. You can see how it works by joining our Work it Wednesday Focus group Wednesdays at 10am ET.

Whenever you stop working for the day, take the time to “close out the day.” That means leave a note of where to pick up tomorrow. Figure out your priorities for tomorrow and any responsibilities you may have at specific times. Check off what you completed. Savor the moment. That’s right, too often we don’t take time to appreciate and congratulate ourselves on what we did accomplish. A “done list” really helps us see our successes and can be motivating too. Clear off your workspace and set it up for tomorrow.

Work with your brain and your energy levels by frequently checking in with yourself. Take time to reward yourself and recharge your batteries. There will always be more to do, just make sure it is worthy of your time and effort.

Embracing Change – Are You Ready?

Transitions, a time for changeI have a love/hate relationship with August, how about you? On the one hand it signifies the ending of the summer (hate) and the transition to cooler weather (which I am welcoming after the hot, hazy, and humid, summer we have had in the northeast – love) but also that transition back to “normal”. Normal as in back to school for the kids and back to your more typical routine and schedule if your schedule has been different during the summer. Do you embrace change or try to run from it?

Transitions

These transitions, are a normal part of life, and can elicit both excitement and/or fear and anything in between. Excitement, even though it is for something good, (new home, job, baby) can often bring up fears from the past. The most common fears are the fear of the unknown, the fear of repeating past failures, or self-doubt in your abilities, all of which can increase your stress level.

Through coaching, many of my clients have been able to focus on the things they can control, rather than the fears that they really have no control over. They can begin to embrace change with a more positive outlook, and see it as an opportunity for growth and learning. This increased belief in themselves also builds their resilience and develops their agency.

How to Navigate a Transition

Let’s focus on the things you do have control over. This goes for your children as well. Many of them may experience the same fears as mentioned based on last years’ school experience. Moving to a new school can also bring out the fear of the unknown and some self-doubt about their abilities. These fears, whether realistic or not, should still be accepted rather than dismissed. Together you can explore them more thoroughly to see if they are based in reality or not. Using yourself as an example can help your children see that questioning our abilities is natural, but that by being proactive we can build those skills needed to feel more in control.

Navigating Transitions

    • Set clear goals – what do you want from this change? How can you turn it into a positive rather than focusing on the negative? Now figure out what you need to do, have or be to get that? Break it down into small manageable steps so that you can see the path to get there.
    • Prepare ahead – if this transition involves a change in schedule, start now to practice. Does your bedtime need to change? Start setting an alarm to get up at the time you will need to. (This is also good to get kids in the habit of getting up – on their own).
    • Organize your environment – can you find what you need, when you need it (quickly)? Is your home easy to navigate or do you need to clear the table off before you can eat there? Are you using up energy moving things, or searching for things? Take some time before the transition to help “future you” feel more in control. How about your child’s study space: where is it and is it organized and distraction free?
    • Create routines – routines provide structure to your day and help to take some of the strain off of your brain as they become automatic. We all learned how important structure is during the pandemic when it all went away. Routines save brain bandwidth and decision-making power to be used for more important things in your day. Creating morning, evening and homework routines for the whole family, sets clear expectations and helps your children develop agency and independence.
    • Manage Time/Self – We can’t really “manage” time but we can become more aware of it and how we use it or waste it. Do you often feel like you have too much to do and not enough time to do it? Take a look and see what is getting in the way. Are you forgetting things because they were not written down or you lost the sticky it was on? Then maybe it is time to create a new system that will work for you. Planners, phones, index cards, notebooks, mind maps, or bullet journals, it doesn’t matter as long as you will use it. We can no longer keep our to do list in our heads (even though it should only have 3-5 tasks on it). One distraction can erase it from our working memory. You need something that works for today, but also something that holds your tasks, thoughts and ideas that are not for today. Ways to manage your tasks can be batching similar tasks together, using a Pomodoro technique approach, delegating or delaying. Lastly, managing your distractions, keeping an eye on an analog clock, and focusing on one priority at a time can help you get more of the important things done.
    • Cultivate Resources – Making sure you have resources for support and help as well as, resources that help you relax and reduce stress. What are the activities that recharge you? How can you use these resources for this new transition? Who can help you when you are feeling overwhelmed, are stuck or don’t understand something? Create a list for these as in the moment, it can be difficult to come up with something that will help.
    • Celebrate – We often focus on the negative, like those things we didn’t get done, rather than taking time to celebrate the wins, no matter how small. Take time and rejoice in your achievements and how you handled the transition and it may just increase your motivation and confidence for what’s next.

These seven steps can help make any transition easier because they help “future you” be less stressed and feel more in control. Help your children with these steps as they get ready for a new start this fall. You can make this your family’s best year yet!

5 Steps to a Summer with Intention

Summer of intention at the beachIt’s summer at last! Let’s take advantage of all that summer has to offer by being more purposeful and deliberate about how we chose to use our time and energy. Here are five steps to help you have a summer of intention and make great memories too.

    1. First, figure out what is important to you and your family. What interests, experiences or goals would you like to have or do this summer? Brainstorm without censoring so you can pick the most important ones.
    1. Set goals that are measurable, so you will actually know if you achieve them. Whether you want to learn a new skill, work on a hobby or go on vacation somewhere, decide what is the endgame?
    1. Since “a goal without a plan is just a wish” as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said in his book, The Little Prince, you’ll need to create a plan for reaching those goals. Start by breaking down each goal into manageable steps then either create a routine or some structure in your day for working on the steps.

A summer plan is designed to change up the hectic routine and add some open time to enjoy the things that are meaningful to you and also make time to be spontaneous. Explore, try new activities, and take time to do nothing, whatever helps you to recharge.

    1. Next, look at your schedule to see where you can squeeze in summer. Is your vacation already planned? If not, that should be your first priority. We all have the same 168 hours per week, how are you using yours?

Are there any weekly or monthly activities that you can cut down on or bow out of for the summer? Do you have projects you can put on hold? Can you cut down or reduce the stress of those projects by letting go, delaying, picking one day a week or month to work on it or chipping away 20-30 minutes a day at it? Do whatever works for you.

Could you get up an hour earlier? Ease up on the hectic pace and change the routine to see if you can’t gain an hour or two a day for yourself. Block out some time in your planner then if something comes up it will be easier for you to say “No, I am sorry I already have a commitment on that day.” Don’t have a big block of time?

Add some spontaneous, (intentional summer) fun during the week such as:

  • breakfast on the deck
  • lunch at the park
  • a picnic dinner at the beach
  • read for 30 minutes in the hammock
  • camp out in your own backyard
  • Stargazing
  • walking the beach at night
  • riding your bike around the neighborhood

You get the idea. These are the spontaneous activities that only take a few extra minutes to do. Sometimes when we try to think of what to do in the moment, we struggle to think of ideas that aren’t really obvious. Here’s where having a list of activities and ideas that you have thought of before can make deciding so much easier. (It’s helpful for kids to come up with their own lists for when you hear the inevitable, “I’m bored!”) CHADD has an article with tips on helping your kids transition from school to summer. Read it here.

    1. Practice self-care. The summer is a great time to think about your health. Physical health; do you want to be more active, need to add more fresh, nutritious foods into your diet and/or do you need to get more sleep? Don’t forget your mental health too. What helps you recharge and/or reduce your stress? Want to start meditating, journaling or start a new hobby? Whatever it is, the summer is a great time to begin.

A summer with intention is about finding the balance between setting and working towards goals and being spontaneous. Allow yourself to embrace spontaneity and enjoy the summer season, while still staying true to your intentions. Wishing you an intentional, fun and spontaneous summer!

School’s Out – Preventing the Summer Slide

summer slideTeachers talk about the summer slide all the time. That downhill slope that learning often takes during the summer months. We all lose some level of skill when we don’t keep using it. For students, the summer slide can set them back a month or more having to review what they have already learned.

Now, I am not talking about the facts they have memorized, but the process of being able to figure things out through understanding themselves and problem solving. In other words, thinking about how they think or metacognition. This is the real skill they need when it comes to learning.

So, what you can you do this summer to help minimize that summer slide?

    • Keep them reading. Find books that they are interested in (not just the ones on their summer reading list) and set aside some time each day for reading. After lunch, after dinner or before bed are great times and even better if you are able to read at that time too. Don’t forget to ask them about what they have read.
    • Going to camp or on outings? Let your children plan what they need, figure out the route or buy the snacks. Any way that you can get them thinking about how to approach the task of being ready is helpful. What have they done in the past that is similar to this and how can that help?
    • Take a walk in the woods, go geocaching, identify birds, flowers, rocks and trees. Get outside and play. Visit the tourist sites near you. What will they be studying next year? Is there an historic site that relates? Take in a museum or zoo.
    • Teach and/or reinforce skills through baking snacks, helping with meal prep, doing their own laundry, organizing their room, and/or writing a grocery list or their daily plan. Create a menu of fun activities they want to do. It is easier to check the menu than to come up with something to do in the moment. Do they want to learn something new or improve a skill?
    • Weekly (or more) game night. Play games that use math and reading but also keeps their “playing with others” skills active. Building with legos – have a competition. Puzzles too.
    • Keep some structure in their day. Kids thrive when they know what to expect. Having morning, mid-day and evening routines can break up the day and make it easier for them to switch activities or come up with new ones. Try a 30 minute “quiet time” after lunch. It works great if you want to swim after lunch but really should wait a bit. It’s a great time for reading, doing puzzles, word searches, or reinforcing weak skills through activities (although I am not a fan of the worksheets), things like math war, or memory games and even flashcards help.

Learning is a process and it takes time. So, start small and scaffold things where you start with lots of help and then less help as they become more capable. Focus on the process of learning and not the outcome. Keep a growth mindset in mind where they are capable with effort even if they can’t do it “yet.” Allow choices it fosters ownership. Reflecting on what they have done leads to metacognition so be sure to use some of their successes to remind them when they are struggling.

Lastly, and most importantly, it is so easy to supply solutions to children’s statements and complaints like: “I’m hungry” or “Where is my bike”, or “I’m bored,” but when you do, you take away the opportunity to develop problem solving skills and encourage independence. (Also developing agency).

Encouraging your children to problem solve with your help and building on their confidence develops agency. Isn’t the goal to raise lifelong, independent learners with the confidence to handle anything? And, it can be fun!