It’s (mostly) not that teenagers are careless with their things — their phone, their water bottle, that expensive new jacket you just bought them that has disappeared without a trace. It’s that the area of their brain related to executive functioning isn’t fully mature yet, so they end up leaving things at school when they need them at home and at home when they need them at school.
Dr. Mark Bertin, a developmental behavioural paediatrician, tells the New York Times that our teenagers might need our help with how to remember to take their stuff with them when they go:
Dr. Bertin, author of Mindful Parenting for ADHD, explained that executive functioning is a developmental path like language that starts in early childhood and changes over time. “The part of the brain that has to do with managing life is the one that matures last,” he said.
“Often there is a perception that teens need to figure things out completely on their own, but executive functioning is like other skills, and sometimes adults need to help teens learn that skill,” Dr. Bertin said.
Part of what helps us remember to do certain things or locate items is having a routine. Putting our keys in the same spot when we get home or plugging our phone in to charge right before we go to bed. It’s when we’re multi-tasking, not paying attention and doing something out of our routine that we lose track of our stuff or forget to take it at all.
That’s why Susan Pinsky, a professional organiser and author of Organising Solutions for People With ADHD, tells the Times that we should try developing a mantra or a mnemonic device that becomes part of our kid’s routine:
She offered the example of singing the items to the tune of the song, “head, shoulders, knees and toes,” such as “glasses, wallet, keys and phone, keys and phone.”
This could work for younger kids, too. After my 8-year-old son lost a water bottle, then a pair of swim trunks (?) and then almost an entire backpack at camp this summer, I tried something similar to this. In a sing-songy voice, I began chanting, “I’m leaving the room, what do I need? I’m leaving the room, what do I need?” every time I’d walk from one room to another.
I think (know for a fact) that he found it mildly (very) annoying, but he didn’t lose anything else at camp once my reminder got stuck in his head.