Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child recently published a guide for parents and educators about the development of executive functions during childhood.

Credit: Shutterstock
Credit: Shutterstock

The guide, Enhancing and Practicing Executive Function Skills from Infancy to Adolescence, links the changes in the child’s growing brain to developmental expectations and strategies for school and home.

The Harvard publication’s section on The Adolescent Brain is particularly helpful and reminds readers about teens’ increased capacity for planning. This change reflects increased frontal lobe development and gradually increasing ability to regulate feelings about stress.

Harvard’s take home? Teach teens to set goalsplan how to actuate those goals, and self-monitor  which strategies contribute to  their success. Harvard and Ivy Prep emphasize the role of verbal mediation, or using self-talk strategies for  breaking down a task and for self-monitoring as one way to accomplish these goals. A terrific resource for information about verbal mediation is Dr. Jane Healy’s Your Child’s Growing Mind.

December is an ideal time to commit to developing these executive function skills as a step toward less stress and greater independence. Although the advent calendar is counting down the days until Christmas and our students are dreaming of down time during  holiday break, at school this is a time when exams, papers, and greater expectations for reading and memorization increase.  Students and families juggle these realities while they also  desire a chance to enjoy holiday celebrations, which in turn further increases the need to multitask.

Harvard’s three-point plan for executive function skill-building becomes even more important and sets up our students with techniques to ease their way into the new year as cumulative exams await. For that reason, we have designed a program that offers a taste of these strategies in December with ongoing fine-tuning and practice after the new year.

Credit: A Screenshot of Harvard University's Center on the Developing Child Report: "Enhancing and Practicing Executive Function Skills with Children from Infancy to Adolescence", pg 12.

Ivy Prep’s Weekend Study Skills Workshop offers practical coaching for these very executive functions that this Harvard publication discusses. This workshop is designed to provide scaffolding for students using actual course assignments each student has, with an eye toward the individual student’s learning style and the instructional approaches of  the specific school that each student attends.

This workshop is offered to  students in grades 8-12 (maximum enrollment: 8). Please contact us at for more information about this new weekend program and our 30 years of tried-and-true individualized instruction.

Note: Dr. Rebecca Mannis (HGSE 1985) is an appointed member of the Harvard Grad. School of Education Alumni Council.

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