Tip of the Week

October 24, 2023

Executive function “parking” tips

Whether it’s the call of their smartphone, Tik Tok, video games, or even the presence of siblings, it’s hard for students to stay focused amidst a sea of distractions. But it’s not just external distractions that can throw students off track. The internal distractions – daydreams, worries, random thoughts in their brains – can be just as disruptive. Unchecked, these impulsive thoughts can entirely derail students from whatever they are trying to accomplish. To counter these distractions of the mind, try the Parking Lot strategy. 

Here’s how it works: Whenever your child has a distracting thought, encourage them to simply jot it down on a post-it note or within a dedicated note-taking app on their phone or device. This simple act of writing it down allows them to “park” these distracting thoughts and return their focus to the task at hand. It’s like telling that pesky thought to “wait your turn.” 

Not only is this strategy a great way to wrangle distracting thoughts and stay on task, but it also helps boost a few critical executive function skills: prioritization and organization. 

  1. By writing down these thoughts, students are learning how to prioritize. They’re making a quick decision on whether it’s something urgent and important or just a fleeting distraction. They’re telling their brain, “Hold on, we’ll get to that later.”
  2. It supports organization in that those distracting thoughts now have a designated parking space, neatly organized on paper or on their device. This keeps their mental workspace clear and prevents their thoughts from turning into a chaotic traffic jam.

And the icing on the cake: If the distracting thought was something genuinely important, like remembering they have another homework assignment due tomorrow, it’s not lost or forgotten. They’ve parked it safely, so they can come back to it when it’s the right time. It’s like having a personal traffic officer for their thoughts, keeping things moving smoothly.