How to Support Your Executive Functions During a Big Life Transition

How to Support Your Executive Functions During a Big Life Transition

Often people are divided into two categories when it comes to executive function skills: You either have them or you don’t.

From my perspective that is an oversimplification because there are certain times in life and specific situations when the “have them” folks lose them for a while, if not permanently. And when this happens it really rocks the boat for those not accustomed to having challenges with time management.

Life changes that can negatively impact executive functioning include:

  • Brain injuries
  • Major Illness
  • Family stresses
  • Divorce
  • Moving
  • Death in the family
  • Unemployment
  • Aging
  • Becoming a parent

I came face to face with that last one a year ago when I arrived at my daughter’s home to help out with her newborn baby, my first grandchild. My daughter and her husband typically have excellent executive functioning skills. Of course, they struggled with that newborn who deprived them of sleep and any predictability in their days.

I was working hard to stay quietly in the background, cooking, cleaning and doing laundry, letting the new parents figure out their changed world until my dear son-in-law commented that he didn’t feel well. He said he had a dull headache.

I looked at my watch. It was around 2:30 in the afternoon. I asked him if he had eaten any lunch.

“No. When is lunchtime?”

Ahh…his brain had lost touch with tracking time and tasks. With his agreement, I jumped into action to help him set up external executive functioning supports. We started with setting alarms for lunch and dinner times just to anchor a reminder that he needed to eat. Then there were reminders for things like the day to set out the trash barrels for pick up. Little by little he set up other external systems to get a grip on what needed to be done.

When these life changes happen, you need to lean into your external supports to get a grip on your executive functioning:

  • Make a daily to-do list of critical tasks and keep it in sight to cross off tasks when completed
  • Use a paper calendar to help track appointments and events
  • Use a paper planner to do planning for the future so you can see what is coming
  • Set electronic alarms for repeat reminders

Know Any New Parents?

In the past, we here at EFS have focused our work on families with children over the age of eleven. However, we are happy to report that is changing! Being a new grandma has sensitized me to the needs of parents with young children. And people with younger children have literally knocked on our office door looking for help.

To meet their needs, we are thrilled to announce a new course: Seeing My Time for Parents of Young Children. Our newest team member, Julie Miller, who has years of experience in early childhood education and raising three children, has adapted our Seeing My Time curriculum to meet the needs of parents of the younger set who are struggling with balancing work, home, parenting and communication with their partners. Beginning this September Julie will offer both a group course and private sessions.

Setting up good support for executive functioning will have a major positive impact for these parents AND their children. Please spread the word about this opportunity!

Little by little, we can all make lives easier by supporting executive functioning.


PS. Going off to college is another big life transition! We now offer one-on-one support for college students who have purchased our current Set Up Success® College Planner. Check out your college planner videos for a link to purchase this new service.

About the Author Marydee Sklar

Marydee Sklar is the president of Executive Functioning Success and the creator of the Seeing My Time Program® and the Set Up Success and Seeing My Time® planners. She is an educator and author of three books on executive functions, as well as a trainer and speaker. Marydee has more than twenty-five years of experience working with students and adults with executive function challenges.

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