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Attending to Executive Functions during Advent

By: Abby Giroux, Associate Director - Program for Inclusive Education

Advent Wreath

The season of Advent is a time of preparation and anticipation for exciting time! As we prepare, let us consider how the excitement of the holidays and changes in routines impact students.

One critical area of impact is executive functioning, or EF – the mental processes that enable us to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully. Intentionally plan for EF during the weeks of Advent with the following strategies.

Advent Week 1

When we light the Advent candle of Hope this week, consider impulse control during  the mounting anticipation and excitement of Christmas. 

  • Offer extra or special brain breaks and mindfulness exercises across the next three to four weeks. Consider using Advent reflections you do in your home, school, classroom, or community for  moments of quiet and reflection. 
  • With COVID concerns prevalent, incorporate safety measures in your celebrations at home and at school. Doing so will protect students who need additional structure to keep others safe.

Advent Week 2 

In week 2, we light the Advent candle of Love. Let’s shift our focus to emotional control and the necessary time management to wrap up projects and units before break. 

  • Set clear expectations for what needs to be accomplished, and provide tracking and accountability for students and parents. 
  • Help students estimate the required time for task completion, supporting them to remain on task. The goal is to provide students a clean slate as they enter their holiday break. 

Advent Week 3 

During week 3, we reflect on Joy with the pink candle of Advent. Let’s intentionally consider flexibility during the next two weeks so we can truly experience and spread joy. 

  •  With plenty of special prayers, programs and parties in the next few weeks, consider how you maintain consistency/normality between events. Proactively communicate schedule changes to students and parents in multiple formats. Review these changes frequently to support transitions for students that thrive on routine. 
  • Help students focus on being thankful for the blessings and excitement of the holidays. In an atmosphere of thanks and gratitude, refer back to these blessings when schedule changes happen or things don’t go as planned. 

Advent Week 4 

The fourth candle on the Advent Wreath is Peace. With the anticipation of Christmas just a week away, school (and home) may not feel as peaceful as we would hope. Encourage peace and consistency during this midst of change and celebration with a focus on transitions, routines, and changing schedules. 

  • Over the break, special prayers, programs and parties will continue. Encourage students and parents to maintain daily routines at home when possible. Emphasize the importance of the transition back to school, especially with sleep routines. Be prepared for an adjustment time back to school in the new year. 
  • January is a great time to review behavior expectations and classroom routines! Plan to review, practice, and reinforce these upon return in January to set the tone for the new year. 

The Program for Inclusive Education (PIE) maintains the importance of proactive planning for the students in our classrooms, specifically during the Advent season. As we practice our faith, we can intentionally attend to, and support the executive function needs of our students.

PIE wishes you, and yours a blessed Advent and Christmas season!

Looking to welcome, serve, and celebrate all students in your school? Apply to be a member of PIE 6!


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