Some children and teens may struggle with executive functioning skills like planning, organization, time management, and attention. While there are many supports and strategies to put in place for kids and teens with executive functioning challenges, positive self-talk is one simple technique we can teach our learners. The idea behind positive self-talk is simple; It’s a way of redirecting the thought process to a more positive one. Positive self-talk can help us feel calm, focused, and motivated. It can even serve as a healthy coping strategy when we are upset.
Some hints at possible executive functioning challenges might include:
- Having trouble staying focused in class.
- Frequently losing or misplacing materials.
- Having messy binders, desk, and/or backpack.
- Difficulty coping with changes to the schedule.
- Impulsive behaviors.
- Difficulty managing time well.
- Difficulty being able to start and/or finish tasks.
Building a Positive Voice
The truth is that many kids and teens with executive functioning challenges engage in negative self-talk all too frequently. They might say things like, “I can’t do this,” and “I’m stupid. I can never do things right.” These statements can end up causing more harm by deflating self-esteem and creating a sense of learned helplessness.
The antidote for negative self-talk is training the brain how to engage in positive self-talk. Teach students what positive self-talk is and why it is helpful. Read phrases together and discuss what they mean. Then, practice positive self-talk as a morning routine.
Here are some of the most impactful positive self-talk statements and affirmations for kids with executive functioning challenges:
1. “This is tough, but I can do it with hard work.”
This phrase is ideal to use before and during challenging assignments. This could be a test, project, or even a chore that is difficult to start. It is a reminder that we can accomplish difficult tasks when we put our minds to them.
2. “I can stop and make a plan before starting.”
Making a plan is one of the most foundational executive functioning skills. By stopping, thinking, and making a plan, we can help ensure we have what we need to do our best.
3. “I can breathe in and out to stay calm.”
We all need coping skills to help us stay calm and manage stress. This is especially true for kids and teens with EF challenges. A simple reminder to slow down and breathe can go a long way.
4. “I am in control of my choices.”
Sometimes, in stressful situations, it feels like we are not in control of our choices. The truth is that we are! Kids and young adults can use this phrase to empower themselves to make the choices that are right for them in the moment.
5. “I am working at my own pace.”
Every person is working at their own pace. For learners with EF challenges, it might sometimes feel they are behind. Rather than comparing themselves to others, kids and teens can use this phrase during working sessions to remind themselves they are on their own path.
6. “I am a work in progress.”
We are ALL a work in progress; kids and teens need to internalize that message. It’s okay not to be perfect (since, of course, no one is). We are all learning and growing. This is a phrase kids and teens can use anytime to remind themselves they are a work in progress, and that’s perfectly okay.
7. “I can go with the flow when things don’t go my way.”
Kids and teens with executive functioning challenges often struggle with flexibility skills. It can be incredibly challenging to go with the flow when there is a schedule change or something doesn’t turn out as expected. The good news is that we can train our brains to stay calm, go with the flow, and accept the changes that happen around us.
8. “Starting my work helps me move towards my goals.”
Initiating tasks can be challenging for some kids and teens. As challenging as it is, we can use self-talk as an internal motivator.
9. “I only compare myself to me.”
Comparison is the thief of joy. Teach kids and teens to use this phrase as a reminder not to compare themselves to anyone. If we want to compare, it should only be comparing our current self to yesterday’s self. Are you working to be better today? That is the most important thing.
10. “Every day is a fresh start.”
Every day is a fresh start. This is one of the most powerful self-talk statements for kids and teens. We all have ups and downs; good days and bad days; times of success and moments of failure. No matter what happens, every single day is a fresh start and a new chance. We need to teach kids and teens to adopt this mindset to help them feel confident each morning.
Positive Self-Talk Posters
Do your students need these positive self-talk reminders? Use these positive self-talk posters to provide extra encouragement! They include 30 unique positive affirmations to build executive functioning skills and empower learners.
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