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  • Writer's pictureMegan Buck

3 Tips for Helping Kids with Planning

Updated: Sep 30, 2022

This month in the Empowered Student Circle, we're exploring planning and time management skills through thoughtful questioning and reflection.

Students are not only engaging in reflection activities led by yours truly but are also coaching me through scenarios that are super common within their own experiences and with their peers.

First, we start with a check-in and a choice of questions. Students are asked to share their names, pronouns, and where they're calling in from (we've got kiddos based here in Atlanta all the way out to Hawaii!).

Then we step into a coaching space. Each week we'll have a mini-coaching session where students are given coaching-type questions to ask along with sentence starters for offering suggestions and advice.

We're not only learning how to manage our executive function in this support group - but we're also learning how to support each other and work in a group.

After our coaching sessions we dive into reflection questions and strategies for our themed skill for the month and then finally, we have time to practice the skill or catch up on any other tasks that we're falling behind on.

This month we're working on planning and time management, so here we will focus on the planning piece. (Watch for our time management post in the next couple of weeks!)

If you're trying this at home, please be sure to find a neutral time and space to have this conversation, as tensions can get high when talking bout struggle areas, especially if your kiddo has ADHD.

Tip #1 - Tap into past planning successes

First, we start off by leaning into our successes with questions like, When was the last time that you felt like you had a plan? What made that feel successful? How can we replicate that scenario?

Lots of kiddos that I've worked with have explained that their successes have happened for a particular class doing a particular project. It tends to be a space-themed project for science or a project on an exciting time in history.

While the topic of interest is important in maintaining focus and executing a plan, there are other factors that we can lean into, like how they developed their plan or who helped them.

Tip #2 - Use your senses

Then, we move into leaning into our senses. Most of you reading this probably have kiddos with ADHD or another form of neurodivergence, and there's something to be said for leaning into the different sensory systems we have in creating any kind of system for success.

So, what does this look like? As your kiddo is reflecting on when they last felt successful, or times when they've felt like they've had a plan, or bin in their "High Functioning" zone, ask them to think about the following:

  • What visual cues were used?

  • What smells might have been present that cued your brain into work time?

  • What tastes or snacks might you have had that supported your focus?

  • What types of clothes were you wearing that made you comfortable enough to feel successful?

  • What was your surrounding like?

  • Was it quiet or noisy?

My answers for these may be different than what your kiddo says, but here it goes.

I feel most comfortable setting up and executing a plan in different spaces. When I'm in a space where there is little to no background noise, and I'm in comfortable clothes, with a candle burning or laundry going it helps me feel grounded enough to create a plan.

However, when it comes time to execute the plan, I need a coffee-type drink, background music (Deep Focus on Spotify is truly a gem), what I call "outside clothes" or clothes that don't have an elastic waistband, and I like having someone else with me, a body double, or an Activity Partner.

Tip #3 - Craft a plan

Finally, we start working on a plan. I know that sounds like a lot of work to front load before you even start making a plan, but when you struggle with executive functioning, it's important to break down everything into the smallest manageable chunks possible to ensure success.

If your child notices that when they're making their plan they need something physical to write out what they're doing, try using a paper calendar or whiteboard. If that seems like too much for them to start with, we recommend tools like Google Keep, or Reminders on their phone. Simple to-do lists for tasks throughout the day are also a great way to get started with making plans.

Remember we're starting from zero and building here, so don't expect a planner to be used perfectly after this one conversation.

Instead, teach them how to use one and build in times as a family to check in about how it's going.

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