In this Episode
Seth Perler is our podcast guest once again to talk about how to create systems that will help your child execute tasks successfully. He is an Executive Function and ADHD coach, and the creator of The Executive Function Online Summit which is a free 3-day immersion with over 30 experts.
In this episode, he gives his tried and true systems for setting up your child for back to school success.
Make sure to catch the Bonus Q&A as he goes deep into the emotional aspects that could hinder Executive Function.
In this week's episode, you'll learn:
- How to hold space for your child’s emotional state
- Declutter, downsize and minimize your life
- Systems for organizing, planning and advocacy
“So part of my philosophy is the more stuff they have, the more stuff they have to manage. And these are kids who already struggle to organize, struggle to manage things. So to me, it really starts with decluttering, and then we can work on managing." - Seth Perler
- The Executive Function Online Summit (TEFOS) - Register for free
- SethPerler.com - Seth's website and blog
- The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk - book recommendation from Seth on the body's nervous system and trauma
- Mindset by Carol Dweck - book recommendation from Seth on how to develop a positive, growth mindset
- Do you have specific tips for parents who struggle with executive function?
- What can you do about a child who keeps saying “What if?” and thinks of the worst case scenarios?
[00:00:01.150] - Jill Stowell
Are you ready? As early as next week, many of you will have children heading back to school. I don't know if that's a nail biter or a celebration, but it's coming. Dr. Seuss says you have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. Well, today we're talking all about executive function, the part of our thinking that does the steering, and how you can guide your children and teens in building executive function and self management skills. This is LD expert live.
[00:00:48.990] - Jill Stowell
Welcome to the LD Expert Podcast, your place for answers and solutions for learning differences, dyslexia, and auditory and attention challenges. I'm your host, Jill Stowell, founder of Stowell Learning Centers and author of the new Amazon number one best seller Take the Stone out of the Shoe: A Must Have Guide to Understanding, Supporting and Correcting Dyslexia, Learning and Attention Challenges.
[00:01:15.900] - Jill Stowell
Our guest today is Seth Perler. Seth is a well known Executive Function coach, educator, Vlogger, and just a guy who cares about seeing outside the box kids succeed. He helps struggling neurodiverse learners turn it around so they can function in a baffling education system and launch a successful future.
[00:01:42.030] - Jill Stowell
His weekly blog, Sethperler.com gives parents and teachers game changing answers to help their students navigate school and life. Welcome, Seth. It's so fun to have you back with us.
[00:01:58.350] - Seth Perler
Absolutely. So good to see you again. Really good to be here. Super excited.
[00:02:04.650] - Jill Stowell
Well, school is starting in the next week or two. It's another transitional year with lots of unknowns. Is there anything in particular about this year that you feel students and parents need to be aware of as they start school?
[00:02:25.930] - Seth Perler
Yeah, there is. You and I were talking recently about this, and yeah, I have a few concerns, actually, even since we talk, but they're in a few buckets that we can kind of describe pretty easily. The first one that I'll mention is it really does have to do with our kids mental health and mental well being and social health. And my first concern for this particular fall is that there's so much divisiveness in the United States. And I know that in other countries things may or may not be different, but in the United States, people are very divided and there's a lot of distrust between people and anger.
[00:03:14.950] - Seth Perler
And there's something called a collective trauma. So as a world, as a country, even, we're having collective traumas, which means that our nervous system in our body has a sense that things may not be safe or we may be being threatened. And it's very important that the nervous system be on alert all the time in our life. That's how we survive. But what's happening now is everybody's on higher alert than normal, and everybody's kind of there's just a lot of divisiveness and division and anger and frustration.
[00:03:56.870] - Seth Perler
So my concern is that you and I, Jill, and a lot of people in this field talk a lot about parents doing their own deep inner work. Well, there are a lot of people on planet Earth that don't do their own deep inner work, that don't take responsibility for themselves, that don't have emotional regulation tools. And there are a lot of parents that have kids that are telling their kids things. What my concern is, is that schools, school therapists, school administrators and teachers are teachers who we need who we need to be supported, that the teachers are not being supported enough.
[00:04:34.970] - Seth Perler
There aren't enough therapists and people in the school to support these teachers, to give them the time they need, the class size, the small enough class sizes that they need, the resources that they need to manage what might happen this year when kids go back to school. And then there's conflict with the kids, more conflict than usual because everybody is so heightened and people have such different opinions. And our teachers are going to be given what they need to support these kids to move through difficult conversations and conflict. And what's that going to do to our collective trauma anyway?
[00:05:11.680] - Seth Perler
Our kids are going to experience more trauma, our teachers going to experience more trauma. Our more teachers are going to leave the school system, who we need that we already have over 50% of teachers leave by year five. So those are some of my concerns. My first concerns is the conflict and how prepared we are.
[00:05:30.040] - Seth Perler
Another concern that I have right now is the screen time. You and I were talking recently. I've been doing a lot of screen time because I'm doing some stuff on my business and my work and I am sick of it. But I can take a break. I can say, oh, I'm feeling it. I'm going to get off the screen, go for a walk, take care of myself.
[00:05:53.940] - Seth Perler
But kids are expected if they're doing hybrid or if they're online, to be with that screen for X amount of hours, for X amount of days. And not only is there while the lack of connection, of human connection when you're doing screen time, or less human connection, I should say, but it's not good. I do feel like that's a concern of mine, that it's too much screen time, that there's going to be more screen addiction also more just sort of we're just going through the motions.
[00:06:26.610] - Seth Perler
We're going to give this homework. Our kids are going to sit in front of the thing and act like something's happening when the quality of it is so diminished. And I don't think that we should stop education right now or anything or just be in person if people are unsafe or something like that. That's not a solution. But it is a very real problem that concerns me how much screen time they're experiencing.
[00:06:52.090] - Seth Perler
So I do fear for the screen time and then I also fear for the loss of education. Now, I don't like that term, but just that it is a loss. It is not in any way, shape or form as good as it could or should be. And the system without times like this already has a lot of dysfunction and a lot of amazing teachers who are lifesavers and who do so much good, but there's a lot that's lacking still. This is just making it even worse. So I just want our kids to be happy and successful and have good lives. Those are, I think, the biggest ones that pop out to me. So screen, the emotional stuff and not having enough supports in place in the third one, which isn't coming into my mind right now because I just woke up and used those three things.
[00:07:51.350] - Jill Stowell
Yeah, the loss of learning, and I think everybody's been really concerned about that too for the last year. It's interesting you talk about this emotional piece, and I think building an awareness within our families as we send our kids off to school, whether they're going back into the classroom or online, kind of helping kids see not just their perspective of the challenges, but how hard it is for teachers and how hard they're working trying to figure it out.
[00:08:37.730] - Jill Stowell
I was watching the Olympics, and they were talking about how the Tokyo Olympics are like the Olympics of kindness, that the athletes are all supporting each other from different countries so incredibly well. And so maybe we want to just kind of set our kids up and say, you know what? It's still a really tricky year, and it's really hard for teachers, too. So how can we be kind to each other? How can we be kind to our teachers just to kind of set it up? And then you said something about with the screen time is so stressful on our nervous system. And you mentioned that you can get up and take a walk.
[00:09:31.360] - Jill Stowell
And really, parents, if your kids are in a hybrid or still on online school, taking a walk is immediately down regulating to the nervous system. So when your child has a little break, make sure that they get up and they move and they walk. It will help with some of that intensity and screen fatigue.
[00:10:02.310] - Jill Stowell
Seth, in general, as kids start back to school, I think a lot of kids are starting on site. In general, as kids start back to school, what advice do you have for students just to set themselves up for a successful school year?
[00:10:23.490] - Seth Perler
The one other fourth concern that I wanted to mention while you're talking is the unknowns. It seems like we're going down a road. It seems like a nice, clear road. We seem to have some certainty. We don't. We don't know what's going to happen. And that concerns me, too.
[00:10:43.290] - Seth Perler
So back to your question. What can we do to set them up for success? I think what you just said is brilliant, priming, having pre-conversations, having conversations before we ever even set foot in the school, about kindness, about generosity, understanding, compassion, empathy, having a lot of conversations around that. How to understand other people's perspectives, what might other teachers be going through, other kids be going through? Just planting the seeds. Just planting the seeds.
[00:11:17.850] - Seth Perler
And how we as adults communicate what our values are and why we have those values. And how to treat people with acceptance and understanding and how to not take things personally. So all sorts of questions to talk about, maybe even the four issues that I just brought up with the kids. But those sorts of things have the conversations often. And when we're having the conversations, do more listening than talking, less problem solving, less rescue, less just really trying to have curiosity, "Wow, why do you feel that way?" Rather than jumping in.
[00:11:58.760] - Seth Perler
So just really holding space so that they can say things and they want to tell us things. When things are really hard to tell us, they know that we're listening, because a lot of times, a lot of kids feel like they're not being validated.
[00:12:14.490] - Seth Perler
But you asked for my guidance for kids specifically. So we have elementary, middle, high school, and college kids. We have these different ages that have sort of different expectations, but in any of those situations, will make items for the kids would be for any of those situations is, number one, to declutter, downsize, and minimize your life.
[00:12:38.200] - Seth Perler
Get rid of the old books, the old toys, the old clothes, the old everything. Stuff under the bed, stuff in the closet, stuff digitally. So get rid of physical stuff. Get rid of digital stuff. Get rid now. I work with kids with executive function challenges, so part of my philosophy is the more stuff they have, the more stuff they have to manage. And these are kids who already struggle to organize, struggle to manage things. So to me, it really starts with decluttering, and then we can work on the managing.
[00:13:05.760] - Seth Perler
So I would wish, if I had a magic wand and the students wanted to prep for this year, is get rid of old stuff. You really don't need stuff you want. Fine, archive it, put it in storage, whatever. But really, I would wish that their spaces were pretty downsized to what they really want to have in their life and need to have in their life, so that once they start getting all the assignments or they need a big clean desk or table to work at, they are making sense.
[00:13:35.820] - Seth Perler
Their brains are able to make sense with an uncluttered space. But you also have digital clutter, so you have physical clutter in the space. You also have digital clutter, and you also have mental clutter. As far as digital clutter is concerned, my advice to the kids I would be starting and this is what I do with the students that I work with.
[00:13:55.990] - Seth Perler
We start decluttering. We unsubscribe from things that they never open. We talk about digital safety. We go through the email inbox, get it cleaned up, teach them how to organize the inbox, how to make labels, little things like that. But decluttering digitally and then decluttering mentally or emotionally would be us supporting them.
[00:14:15.790] - Seth Perler
I'm not going to get into that. So I would start with the decluttering, and then once we're decluttered, then I would start building the systems. Now, when I talk about parents and teachers out there, I use the term called Frankenstudy, and I made that up inspired by Eddie Van Halen's frankenstratin guitar, where he like guitars, and he used parts from a bunch of different guitars. But what we can often do as adults is we can say to kids, hey, this is how you use a three ring binder, and this is the planner you're going to use. And there's no buy in and no ownership and no guidance.
[00:14:47.990] - Seth Perler
Now, kids who have more linear, more system thinkers, more naturally, they seem to pick up on this stuff through osmosis. Whereas the kids who struggle with executive function, they can look like they're being willful or like they're not motivated or they don't try hard enough. And those are big misunderstandings.
[00:15:10.490] - Seth Perler
They do not know they need guidance on how to systematize. So my number two thing for these students, guidance to them would be to create their systems for organization. How are you going to organize your socks and your shoes and your papers and your folders and your binders and your books and your digital world?
[00:15:33.090] - Seth Perler
So creating systems mindfully, thoughtfully, intentionally, before school starts, because what often happens is school starts, things seem organized, but what happens and then, especially with middle and high schoolers, they're like, leave me alone, Mom. Dad, I don't want your help.
[00:15:53.080] - Seth Perler
And you have to have that relationship and that buy-in to be like, well, sorry, for the next six weeks, we are going to meet with you once a week, and we're going to go through the entire backpack, help you reorganize it, help you reorganize your desk, and help you reorganize your digital world.
[00:16:10.830] - Seth Perler
If you all did that for six weeks and sort of made it a thing, then that would really help because and then not telling them what to do and where to put the paper and whatever, but very patiently guiding them to take the ownership and the buy in. And what I do when I'm working with clients is I'm like, where should that paper go? Why? Cool. I like your idea. That's a good idea. Okay, where should that paper go? Oh, you want to throw it away? Are you sure you don't need it? Do you want your name on this paper? So it's a very long process, but I'm asking a lot of questions so that they're taking the ownership in the buy in, and I can let them be wrong.
[00:16:50.660] - Seth Perler
They can say, oh, yeah, I can throw this away and I can let them throw it away. And in my mind I might know that it needs to be turned in because I may have seen the online grade book and I know that it's a zero in the grade book. So I keep that in my mind so that before the end of the night we're not going to actually throw it away, but we have to give them that space because what often happens is that we'll see, oh, I need that paper, that's the magic.
[00:17:12.350] - Seth Perler
So we have to really be aware of how much we're rescuing or enabling or saving when we're in these processes and how much we're sort of interfering with the process by adding in our own two cent when we shouldn't. Other times we should. But I just really want to stress, to be really mindful about biting our tongues and really allowing the ownership and buy in the mistakes to happen in safe ways.
[00:17:36.470] - Seth Perler
But we want to start building systems, systems for organization, systems for organizing digital data, systems for organizing, your links, your passwords, all this stuff. Proactively, I want my students to do it proactively. I don't want them to wait until it's eight weeks and they have four Fs and two As. And now we have to start figuring out where the breakdowns are. Proactively building your digital systems, your links, your links to the teacher, portal, to all the portals they need, all the passwords, all that stuff.
[00:18:02.350] - Seth Perler
We should ideally never say to a kid, what's your password for that? And then say, I don't know, I haven't checked it this whole school year and I have had so many clients who come to me in like November and that's the case. So we want to be proactive, proactive, declutter, then organize systems, systems for planning, systems for organizing.
[00:18:19.960] - Seth Perler
And the last system I'd probably say is systems for advocacy. So proactively kids knowing how to reach out to teachers and say, hey, I don't understand where the homework is. I need some help here. I'm struggling with content. I didn't have time to do the homework or proactive from the parents saying, hey, my kiddo didn't do the homework last night and we're not going to do it.
[00:18:42.360] - Seth Perler
We can't do this. We just had too much in the family right now and there's a lot of stress and please don't fail the kid for this and give them a ding with a zero. We don't have the capacity and we are doing everything we can to do what you're asking, but we don't have it today. And we're going to have to do a lot of that this fall.
[00:19:03.510] - Jill Stowell
Definitely. And I think something really, really important that you said in there is that you're doing this together. The student has to buy in. If they don't buy in and you just tell them, okay, you're going to do this, you're going to do this, you're going to do this. They're not going to use those systems. They have to be a part of creating them. And so all of those questions are really helpful and it does take time. So it's sort of like front loading the year given, taking the time now to ask those questions, let them do the thinking, let them kind of guide them in creating their systems, and everything will go smoother then for the rest of the year if you take that time now.
[00:19:57.190] - Seth Perler
And I love the word front loading. That's one of my favorite words. While we're on that front loading, the planner and the calendar, whether it's digital or paper calendar, I don't care. But every single thing that can get in the calendar for the entire year, I do set up with my students proactively.
[00:20:14.260] - Seth Perler
So we get the big wall calendars. I try to get every single family to have the large wall calendars. They're desk calendars. They have two holes on them. They're $5 at any office or black and white. Simple. But we front load the whole year. We highlight block out every single day off for the whole year. I want the kid to be in the process of this kid.
[00:20:36.180] - Seth Perler
I've had high schoolers who don't even know that when they look at a calendar, like, we'll be doing it and they'll say, oh, this month the 30th is on a Wednesday. It doesn't end on a Sunday because some kids actually think like it just ends on the last block. It's amazing that some kids still don't know how calendars work. And then you get to see, oh, they didn't even know this. Now we can teach them that. But I want them to front load the whole school year, look at the school academic calendar.
[00:21:04.850] - Seth Perler
And every day off, we block out with a highlighter. We might write in on Valentine's Day, a kid might put a heart in on New Year's Day, they might put a little decoration. But either way, I want them to front load. And it's amazing parents, when you see them start to front load, how it comes together in a more concrete way of what they're getting into for the year, what a school year means, how many days there are. They can look forward to the times when they have off.
[00:21:36.490] - Seth Perler
Please hear me. It is an amazing process that really works in digital or paper, I don't really care. But for them to take time to be a part of the process of front loading, and you can do a lot of it for them, but they need to be part of the process. So if it takes them forever, for example, to take a straight edge, and they want a straight edge and make all the lines on the things they do one line and you do three, for example. Cool. So that's what I got there. Sorry to interrupt you, but I love that word front loading in the calendar and the planner and with their materials.
[00:22:12.170] - Jill Stowell
But that's huge about the calendar. And actually, for kids that really struggle with time, I love the wall calendar because now they can see really large. They can get a whole perspective as opposed to the little pieces. Even our teams can only see two or three days in advance in their mind. They can't see very far in the future. I remember I used to say about my son, he couldn't see past his nose. And that's really true about teenagers. They really can't.
[00:22:52.170] - Jill Stowell
So having a big calendar where everything's on there and they can look and get the whole picture is really helpful. And spending all that time with it in advance, then they understand it better. Because you're right. We've run into brilliant kids who didn't understand how a planner or a calendar was put together. So we can't make any assumptions, and really working with it together is great.
[00:23:26.570] - Jill Stowell
Seth, thank you so much for being here. I know you're super busy getting the conference all set, but we always love having you being challenged now, right? But we just always enjoy having you and appreciate your passion and your heart for helping students and parents.
[00:23:50.790] - Seth Perler
Likewise, Jill's heart is in this work, and I like that about Jill.
[00:23:57.510] - Jill Stowell
Thank you again, Seth, for the executive function pro tips. Thank you, all of you who are watching live or on the replay.
Bonus Q&A Transcript
[00:00:01.390] - Lauren Ma
Jan has kind of a longer comment. And then also there's a question embedded in here, so I want to address that or just get some advice for her. She says, My fourth grader wanted to go back to in person school. He just liked our online school because it just did not meet his social emotional needs. Now that it is only two weeks away, he has lost all motivation for anything. Maybe he is masking his anxiety, but he seems to become grumpy and stubborn when we even discuss school.
[00:00:32.100] - Lauren Ma
Purchasing new supplies and clothes does nothing to lighten the mood. He won't discuss his emotions and feelings behind it. It is affecting my first grader, who should be really and then her comment got cut off. I have this. Should be really excited to finally go to in person school. So do we have any advice for kiddos that are kind of in that boat? Again, this is about a 9-10 year old fourth grader, incoming fourth grader. He is anxious and rightly so. Things are different, and it's going to be different this year.
[00:01:06.210] - Seth Perler
Jill, where does your mind go first?
[00:01:12.310] - Jill Stowell
I suspect that that grumpiness really does have to do with anxiety about what to expect and is he going to be able to do it. And, you know, in a very non threatening time, just a very chill time of day, it would be good to just sit down and say, hey, I noticed you were really excited to go back to school. And now, you know, it seems like you're not so much. Tell me about that and then just be quiet.
[00:02:00.930] - Jill Stowell
It's very interesting how we phrase our question to kids will open up doors or close doors. And I've just found that that particular way of phrasing it, "I notice. Tell me about that". And then just giving them the opportunity to start talking when they're ready seems to kind of open the doors so that maybe he can start to express some of those fears or anxieties that are coming up.
[00:02:41.030] - Seth Perler
Excellent. I like how you're doing what I was talking about before, which is asking questions, doing a lot more listening than talking. So what happens is we can get as, that all really. We see their anxiety, and we want them to not feel that way. So our intentions are really good, and then we try to use logic and reason to say, "oh, don't feel that way. It's going to be fine, blah, blah, blah". And rather than allowing them to process because they need to process, it's not just words and thoughts. It's also in their nervous system. Okay. It's in their nervous system.
[00:03:20.100] - Seth Perler
There's a great book called The Body Keeps the Score that describes this really well. There's a lot of great books, but that's a good one you might like.
[00:03:26.320] - Seth Perler
But when we have thoughts about something, what happens is if we perceive in our thoughts, in our story, in our narrative, that there might be a threat that we might not be safe. That signals to a small part of the brain called the amygdala. About three or four inches behind my eyes, there's the amygdala. And that amygdala will send a message to my adrenal glands on top of my kidneys here, and the adrenal glands will send adrenaline to my heart, which will send adrenaline to my muscular system so that I'm ready for fight or flight, which are very active states, or freeze, which is a very closed down, shutdown, frozen state.
[00:04:09.350] - Seth Perler
So either way, we're in a state of people use the word anxiety. We're in a state of fear of feeling unsafe. And then what's happening here, what a great story, because what you get to see through the story with a nervous system is that one kiddo is having a nervous system experience, and the younger kiddo is seeing this and doing what's called co regulating, and they're feeling they're noticing their nervous system forgetting language. Their nervous system is saying, hey, my siblings nervous system is unsafe. Maybe I'm not safe.
[00:04:46.910] - Seth Perler
And then the child has the story and the narrative and the words to sort of describe that. They're not as excited or about school this year when they're seeing this one, but it starts with that nervous system. Their nervous system is feeling, oh, my gosh, maybe this isn't safe. Forget words, they don't care what their parents are saying: "everything is fine. It's going to be great." They don't care about that. The nervous system is saying, well, I'm noticing that the sibling of mine who I trust feels unsafe, so maybe I'm not. So that's what's going on. That's a very basic idea of what's going on.
[00:05:22.890] - Seth Perler
But allowing them to process and really holding space and having conversations over and over and again, doing a lot more listening and biting your tongue and saying, tell me more, which I said, I noticed the words. I noticed for those of you that like to take notes, jot those two words down. "I noticed..." I noticed when I talked about school, your body did this, your shoulders did this, your face did this, your tone of voice changed like this. You said these words. What did you notice? And then leave, especially if you have an introverted or quieter child, leave a lot of space.
[00:06:00.600] - Seth Perler
And then when you're ready to respond to their response, don't. Leave more space and see if more comes out. Especially for those kids that don't talk a lot, you have to leave a lot of space. It takes a long time for them to process the thoughts, to articulate them. They may not give you much, and you just want to keep saying, tell me more, tell me more. And if they're not telling you more, you want to say, I am here for you. I love you. I have got your back. I will be back. And I'm going to ask you in ten minutes or I'm going to ask you tonight after dinner and I want you to think about it and I'm going to ask you and then let you talk, or I'm going to ask you this weekend and sit down with you, or we're going to go for a walk.
[00:06:39.700] - Seth Perler
But you have to prime them so that they kind of know it's coming. So if they're not saying anything to really say, I'm not just going to drop this conversation. I'm here for you, I will give you space. You take time to think about it. I'll ask you again, and they may not even give you a lot at that time, but you keep doing this.
[00:06:55.840] - Seth Perler
And I've worked with a lot of kids who don't say much and it takes a while and a lot of persistence, but you have to keep essentially saying to their nervous system, saying to them, hey, I'm here for you. I'm going to hold space. You can tell me anything. I'm not going to invalidate you or interrupt you or tell you the logic and the reason, which is pretty invalidating, but I'm going to keep holding space.
[00:07:18.250] - Seth Perler
Now, should you say something, respond sometimes. Of course, I'm not being black and white about this, but generally speaking we say way too much. So I just want to really encourage you to practice holding that space so that they can process. And I do want to go on to one other thing related to this. Jill, did you want to pop in?
[00:07:37.850] - Jill Stowell
No, that's great. Keep going.
[00:07:41.870] - Seth Perler
So years ago I was in a coma and I came out of the coma and I started having anxiety attacks and panic attacks from basically in a coma. I was on a respirator. I couldn't breathe for nine days and I couldn't walk afterwards. I was in a wheelchair and my body had essentially eaten itself and what have you. I come out and this is about in around 2000, I come out of it and I started having all this anxiety and panic.
[00:08:09.680] - Seth Perler
I didn't know what the heck was going on, but I was on a respirator and I couldn't breathe, and I started having a lot of panic around breathing. I thought I wasn't getting enough oxygen. And this lasted for years.
[00:08:20.230] - Seth Perler
And this is when I really started to I got a therapist who taught me to meditate and did what's called EMDR and somatic approaches and all this stuff that we don't need to go into depth about right now. But one of the things that I learned during that time is that every anxiety and every fear I had and this is related to the person whose comment you read before where the person said that their child is having a lot of what ifs.
[00:08:46.050] - Seth Perler
And for those of you taking notes who might want to jot this down, that fear is about "what if". So somebody taught me that at that time when I was going through this and it was a game changer that every single fear I have is a what if. And I'm going to give you a tool that you can use with this parents, with your child or with yourself around this. That was so game changing for me and it seems so simple, but it's not because the mind is very powerful.
[00:09:11.690] - Seth Perler
So when your child is saying what if, what if? That is a practice. They are practicing when we default to the negative because we want to survive. But the brain does default to the negative anyway. So it's extra hard to get our brains to default to the positive. So we have to work on this. But the what if, that's very normal, that's very appropriate response. That's actually they're giving you a lot of great information.
[00:09:35.870] - Seth Perler
So their mind, their story, their narrative is saying what if this bad thing happens? What if that bad thing happens? What if this bad thing happens? Anxiety and panic are always about a what if question, always 100% what if this bad thing happens?
[00:09:50.580] - Seth Perler
What if this good thing doesn't happen? It's always a what if. So I'm going to say it again for those of you taking notes, anxiety is always about what if. Why is that so powerful? For me, it's so powerful because if I can identify the what if, then I can reverse the what if. What I want to caution you parents against is using logic and reason to solve the what if for them all the time. But what I do want to encourage you to do is ask the question and then I want you also to model your own what if of the opposite.
[00:10:28.650] - Seth Perler
I'll give you an example. I told you my fears at the beginning of this call. What if the kids go back to school and they have a lot of conflict and it's on the playground and the teachers and there's not enough teachers on the playground. They don't see the conflict. Kids are being ashamed. Kids are being bullied. Kids are misunderstanding each other and they're not being given the guidance that they need to work through problems in healthy ways. What if these things happen? So that's the fear that causes me anxiety.
[00:11:04.670] - Seth Perler
So what's the opposite of that? The opposite is what if the teachers are given the resources they need? What if there are more therapists in the school this fall? What if administrators are really working on mental health issues and are really aware of this? What if as a country or world, this stuff is brought to the surface and we really take care of our kids? What if more teachers are in recess duty and are paid better and are distributed around the playground or more volunteers are what if we have something called trauma-informed schools with trauma-informed parents? Huge one for me, Jill. What if that starts happening more this year and this is an opportunity for that. What if these kids have really great experiences and learning to process things through these things that seem like big challenges, but they're really held and given space to do this?
[00:11:52.910] - Seth Perler
Now, let me give you a more practical one, okay? What if the kid doesn't like me? What if the kid hates me? What if I fail this class? These are more practical, okay? What if I go to school and I don't make any new friends? What if I go to school and I want to go home and I can't go home?
[00:12:12.960] - Seth Perler
So the opposite of those might be with your child. What if I make some new friends that are lifelong friends? What if I really have some great teachers this year? What if I really learn a lot of cool stuff this year? What if I laugh a lot this year? Now, you want to deal with this on a fear by fear situation. I'm giving you very broad categories to explain this, but in the moment with your child, when they're saying the what if, that's when we can go.
[00:12:44.020] - Seth Perler
If a child says to me, Seth, what if I go to class and all the kids in the class here's a good one. They'll say all my teachers hate me. I've had kids say that all my teachers hate me. What if I go to school and the teacher hates me and I try to turn in the paper and the teacher says, I won't accept that, it's a zero. Then I could say, then I'm not going to give them the answer. I'm not going to be like, well, what if this I'm going to say, "Tell me more." Well, this teacher doesn't like me, and in fact, I know they hate me.
[00:13:20.820] - Seth Perler
Okay, cool. Tell me more. Why do you think they hate you? Well, I think they hate me because blah, blah, blah. Now, the reason that the kid gives me maybe that they're really sensitive to something that didn't even exist, that the teacher made a face at them and the teacher really just didn't make any face at them. That's just their face or something. So teenagers, in fact, often will read more threat from I forget, from flat affects they will read into it more threat than normal when there is no threat.
[00:13:58.570] - Seth Perler
So anyhow, when my teacher makes his face at me, they hate me, and they're explaining to me, and I'm not telling the kid, that's not true, I'm holding space. I'm just like, wow, tell me more, tell me more. When they're done telling me more and I've really delved into it, then I say, okay, now tell me the fear again. Well, what if they hate me and I fail the thing? I try to turn it in, I'm embarrassed and all this stuff. So I'm really holding space first and really just letting them talk it through, letting them process. Then and I might say what Jill said, I notice I noticed when you said, I hate this class that your body did this.
[00:14:34.820] - Seth Perler
Yeah, well when I get angry I go like that. Or I noticed that when you said this about the teacher, your voice went way up. Yeah, well I'm nervous. So we're noticing things we're just noticing. And what that helps is it helps our kids become reflective and self aware and metacognitive rather than mindless, unconscious not self aware and just sort of like a robot walking through life not aware of what they're doing.
[00:15:09.920] - Seth Perler
We want them to build awareness. And that, "I notice" is such an amazing reflective word. I notice this, that they can then it can be brought to their consciousness and they can start to connect dots and eventually get to the point where they don't allow their emotions and their thoughts to rule them.
[00:15:32.620] - Seth Perler
Our emotions and our thoughts are very important guides for us. But we as humans can make mountains out of molehills and take them too far. We can obsess on things, think about things too much, try to figure things out too much, get really stuck in looping on thoughts and emotions. This can help them process more mindfully more consciously, more with, more self awareness, so that they can ideally, hopefully come up with their own solutions.
[00:15:59.020] - Seth Perler
But getting back to the what if, this is then once we're holding space, then we can start saying so what are some other what ifs? Is there any other way it could go? What if a different situation happened? Like what if you didn't fail that paper? What might that look like?
[00:16:20.010] - Seth Perler
And they might say, well, I might get A or B. Actually, I did do pretty well on this. What would it be like if you got an A or a B and just sort of exploring that. But the end point is this Jill and everybody, we want to again, we default to negative for very good reason. We want to survive. So it's more important that we default to the negative just in case that this is just a biological thing. Our nervous systems and our stories default to the negative. But we take it too far.
[00:16:55.030] - Seth Perler
So we have to really work hard even as many of the adults and put it in the chat and own it. It's cool. But if you tend to default to the negative and your family gets frustrated with you and they're like stopping, if people ever say to you, stop being so negative, put it in the chat and own it and tell us I bet there's a million of us here, but we default to it.
[00:17:14.280] - Seth Perler
And it's hard work to change the narrative and the thoughts and fake it till you make it and really default to the what if these good things happen? And what if these good things happen anyhow, that's my stick on that. I just wanted to sort of talk about respond to those two questions in a lot of depth and give them a lot of great attention, because I feel like, hopefully that those two were so excellent. I feel like those can be applied to so many of the things that we were talking about today.
[00:17:46.510] - Jill Stowell
And I love that idea of we do get stuck with "what if", but as soon as we say, what if it doesn't happen that way? What would that look like? It's like just even picturing that in my mind as you were going through those scenarios, I could feel myself kind of smiling.
[00:18:10.690] - Seth Perler
You were down regulating the words we used earlier. Right? And then the nervous system started feeling more safe, and you're allowed to feel more joy and openness and peace.
[00:18:20.070] - Jill Stowell
[00:18:20.720] - Seth Perler
Sorry to interrupt, but it's so much a nervous system thing, too. I love the nervous system stuff. But as you were listening, your nervous system changed.
[00:18:29.950] - Jill Stowell
[00:18:30.640] - Seth Perler
Literally, I took you through what if not even knowing it, because it can be subtle, but your nervous system is really like, oh, yeah, I have that fear to Seth. And then so our bodies are responding. Whether or not the people you all who are watching know this, even through the stock, throughout your whole day. Throughout your whole day. Our biomarkers, our nervous systems, these different systems are always going through these different things.
[00:18:57.530] - Seth Perler
The problem is we can get big spikes. And that's when we want to have tools to down regulate. Or if we shouldn't. It's really a threat how to deal with the situation in the best possible way. Whatever it is. Whether it's a car driving towards you honking. Or whether it's a snake on the ground walking coming towards your foot. Or whether it's somebody freaking out in a grocery store or something that they don't have what they were looking for. What's the appropriate response in this situation?
[00:19:35.230] - Lauren Ma
Such great advice. In our centers, we deal with this all the time. When we're addressing executive function, this is something I think, that we've known and worked with years before COVID, because we always say the nervous system is more powerful than the frontal lobe, or the limbic system will always win. And so you really do have to address that.
[00:19:59.640] - Lauren Ma
We have our learning skills continuum that we always refer to, but it mirrors brain development. Brain development, there's a hierarchy, and our system is designed to survive. And when it perceives threat, It will respond. And then I always tell parents, the frontal lobe shuts off, and that's where executive function is occurring. So, trying to reason.
[00:20:22.450] - Seth Perler
Anxiety part of the system.
[00:20:24.910] - Lauren Ma
Yeah, it's supposed to be reactive. Absolutely. That's what our system Is supposed to do. So when we come, you know, we're dealing with problems with our kids, and they're processing it as anxiety or as a threat or any of that. We really have to make what we call a state change. So we know this. You're preaching to the choir, and I love it.
[00:20:42.920] - Lauren Ma
And I love that that's being addressed today because so often so many parents just want to get to the top stuff. Just make him have a concept of time, make him use a planner. And it's like they're not even in that state to have all those things processed yet. So this is so important. Thank you so much for addressing that.
[00:21:01.140] - Lauren Ma
I wanted just a couple more questions, just because this has been chock full of information, but I'm going to shift gears just a little bit more. A YouTube viewer is asking for any specific tips for parents who struggle with executive function.
[00:21:17.830] - Seth Perler
Great question, and I could spend five more hours on that. But the good news is this is that whether your kids in kindergarten or college or you're, it really is the same thing. So I'll break this down for you, and if you're taking notes, I'll break it down for you in a way that is meaningful to you right now, because I nerd out about the stuff that I have for you. So I'll give you a model, a model you can jot down if you want.
[00:21:51.310] - Seth Perler
So what if the parents start with executive function? Well, what is executive function? It means we need to execute on important, complicated tasks. Great. We need to set goals. We need to pay the bills. We need to do it could be the grocery shopping. We need to go to work. We need to manage the family. We need to get this person's wedding as a family all on time. And everybody has to be wearing what they're supposed to wear to the wedding. And we need to make sure the car has gas. Execution on complex tasks requires a lot. So like I said earlier, it's not simple. It's doable, but it's not simple.
[00:22:31.990] - Seth Perler
But we can figure this out. And that's, again, the summit is so good for saturating yourself and really getting over that hump. So what can parents do? Well, it's about execution so we can break it down. Where are your breakdowns and execution now?
[00:22:47.400] - Seth Perler
I use the word resistance. So we need to execute, get something done. What's the problem? The problem is resistance. So I lump all problems under resistance. The problem is resistance. What the heck does that mean? Well, then I would ask you, so what are you having trouble executing on and where do you resist with execution?
[00:23:09.790] - Seth Perler
So the resistance is I don't want to, I don't feel like it. I'm going to procrastinate. I will execute later. I can't execute right now. Why? It's too abstract. It's not fun. It takes too much time. It seems overwhelming. So just ask yourself, what is the resistance? What is holding you back from the things you're trying to execute on?
[00:23:37.380] - Seth Perler
So I would start there, pull out a piece of paper, write the top ten things that you're struggling to execute on, and then for each of those things, write where some of your resistance areas lie?
[00:23:51.690] - Seth Perler
Where is the breakdown? What's blocking you? Where is the resistance? Where is the procrastination? Why does it feel unmotivating? Why is it hard? I feel disorganized. I don't even know where to start. I'm not getting the support I need to do it. I don't have what I need to do.
[00:24:09.470] - Seth Perler
Just start being very practical. What is the resistance? What is the breakdown? What's blocking you in those things? And then now we're at a place where we can start looking for solutions. And what are those solutions going to be?
[00:24:23.180] - Seth Perler
So here's how I break it down, and I'm going to give you the model. So we have to execute on certain things. We resist. It's overwhelming, it's stressful, whatever. There's resistance. So how do we do this? We need three things, and this is for a parent who struggles with it, too. Three things. Jot this down if you want, but this is just my model. This is what works for me and how I explain it. Many other experts explain it in different ways and have brilliant explanations that are better than mine. This is just the way that I do it. We need three things systems, mindsets, habits and routines.
[00:25:09.330] - Seth Perler
The systems would be what I said before, declutter, minimize, get rid of stuff. Start with that. That can be thought of as a system or at least cleaning your systems up. You may not even have systems, but we're setting the space to build systems, and we need to build systems. How are we going to organize the bills? The digital world, the physical world, the stuff we have in our life? Systems.
[00:25:32.210] - Seth Perler
I mean, if you go in the kitchen, you open the cabinet and you see a stack of plates, there's a system for where the plates are. That's a very concrete system. But some of our systems were struggling. Where parents are struggling are more abstract than that. But there is a very clear system. You don't put the plates in the bedroom closet. Okay? But we need to get concrete about the systems where we're having trouble and figure out because they're not as easy to figure out.
[00:25:57.520] - Seth Perler
We need systems, systems for planning, calendaring, agendas. People are like, I don't like planners. I don't need planners. I hate planners. I have a million sticky notes. I have a million to do list, blah, blah, blah.
[00:26:07.840] - Seth Perler
You need to work on the system. Me too. I have a million. I mean, I'm a lot better. But this is a place we need to spend time on, work on our systems for planning and calendaring and scheduling. It's very important. We need to take time. It doesn't just happen. We're on the systems for organizing stuff, the digital or whatever systems. What systems do we need then?
[00:26:30.120] - Seth Perler
The mindset, the default mindset is resistance. I don't want to this is too hard, it's too big, it's too abstract. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Resistance. That's the mindset what's the other mindset you can look up? Carol Dweck is the name, and there's tons of work on mindset, but it's okay.
[00:26:46.420] - Seth Perler
This is overwhelming, but I can do this. I can get started. I can do it for five minutes. I can do it for an hour. I can do it just a little bit. I can do this one test. We need to do something to get the momentum. The worst thing to do is to do nothing. So how can we take baby steps? I'm all about baby steps. So, system mindset. So we have the resistance mindset, and then the can-do mindset, the more positive mindset that helps us.
[00:27:08.760] - Seth Perler
And then we need habits and routines. What good is the system and a mindset if you don't have a habit or routine around it and they don't just happen again? So I take time to put this in with the kids. A homework routine, a get home from school routine, a wake up routine, a go to bed routine.
[00:27:22.130] - Seth Perler
You know how important routines are for infants and toddlers. Well, they're really important for us adults, too, but we kind of lose the routines. And you don't have to have a rigid routine if you struggle with this stuff. Don't make a rigid routine, but make routines. Make flexible routines that you can manage and set yourself up for success, but intentionally take time to make the habits and routines and build them.
[00:27:46.200] - Seth Perler
So, to me, I'm trying to create change within a family. How do you do that? It's hard to change myself. How am I going to but when we're helping families and kids, we want to give them the systems, help them with the mindsets, the narratives, the stories, and help them build routines so they can use the systems and create the change they want to have the better quality of life so that they can be happy and successful adults.
[00:28:08.800] - Seth Perler
And the hours over. Have a great day, bye everybody. Just kidding. That is a good place to stop, though. That's the model.
[00:28:18.830] - Lauren Ma
That's a great advice. Definitely.
[00:28:20.780] - Seth Perler
So write down on a piece of paper, what systems do I need? What mindsets do I have and how do I want them to change, and what routines and habits do I need? And start there. And where is my resistance? I could go on and on and on. You could also be super ninja and go to the closest people in your life and say, I'm going to ask you a weird question. If you had to give me three pieces of advice to make my life better and everybody's life better, what would those three pieces of advice be? And listen to what they say. That's hard, but powerful.
[00:28:56.820] - Lauren Ma
Vulnerability. I like it.
[00:29:00.450] - Seth Perler
Jill, you're awesome. For those of you that aren't really familiar with Jill, Jill is a super ninja and super awesome and super talented. And I'm dive into Jill's work because I have really spoken way too. Much here. And I just want to highlight you because you're just amazing. And Lauren, too.
Listen, Watch and Subscribe
Subscribe to the LD Expert podcast in your preferred player and sign up for our weekly newsletter. Get the answers and proven solutions for dyslexia, learning differences and attention challenges sent directly to your inbox.