December 2022 Newsletter – Keeping Child Development in Mind During the Holidays: Executive Functions

Executive Functions

Brain development begins in the base of the brain, which regulates those automatic functions such as breathing and heart rate. Development continues as the center of the brain manages emotions and memory. One of the last parts of the brain to develop is located directly behind the forehead.  This area is responsible for self-regulation, decision-making, and managing attention.

Did you know that this area of the brain continues to develop into early adulthood?  This means that young children technically do not have the brain capacity to regulate their behaviors, especially when they are stressed or overwhelmed.  They are learning how to use self-regulation skills, but the area of the brain responsible for these skills is not fully formed in childhood.

These skills are sometimes called executive functioning skills.  They include skills associated with:

  • Emotional regulation
  • Impulse control
  • Attention focus
  • Time management
  • Working memory
  • Frustration tolerance
  • Self-monitoring
  • Flexibility
  • Task initiation
  • Organization
  • Planning

Now take a moment to think about all of the demands that are put on children during holiday celebrations.  Can you see how some of the expectations that are placed on children may not be realistic based on the fact that the skills above are not fully developed?

Again, children are learning these skills, but it takes a lot of practice to master these skills. Some skills develop earlier than others. It is important to understand where children are currently functioning and create expectations that match children’s developmental capabilities.  To do otherwise only adds stress to an already stressful situation.

Help families understand executive functioning skills and their impact on children’s behaviors and responses to different situations.  Share activity ideas for helping children strengthen these skills.

If you need more information on executive functioning, consider taking the CCEI course entitled CHD111: Explaining Executive Functions.


For the main article Keeping Child Development in Mind During the Holidays, CLICK HERE

For the article Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development, CLICK HERE

For the article Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development, CLICK HERE

For the article Bowlby’s Attachment Theory, CLICK HERE