Boosting Executive Functions by Sharing Memories
Updated: Jul 16, 2019
Parents can boost their child’s executive skills in many ways. Joint reminiscing or remembering and talking about memories with your child is a one way parents can do so. The best way to think about joint reminiscing is to think of it as mental time traveling with a loved one. To break it down even more, it’s like memory sharing.
We all reminisce with each other, whether with friends, parents, or own children. Related to kids, it is best done to engage their memory for events in the past. Research, especially with pre-school age children, shows that remembering events and talking about them serves many purposes and can be beneficial to a child’s development of executive skills.
Memories help us all get through difficult times. Looking back on happy or even sad times help children make a connection between feelings and events that occurred in the past. Having opportunities to do so will allow children to manage situations and their related emotions at later junctures. So, one function of joint reminiscing is to build a reservoir of mental states that will help a child regulate feeling states. It gives them strong memories that they can rely on to get them through tough events.
Another function of joint reminiscing is that it provides children with opportunities to converse and learn skills related to engaging with others over shared connections. When a parent elaborates on memories with their child, the child takes away how to sequence events, ask questions to jog a memory, and tell stories. They learn the give and take of carrying a conversation. So, joint reminiscing helps develop verbal and social skills in children.
One key takeaway of joint reminiscing is that it activates memory pathways in the brain related to events in the past as it relates to the present. By jogging a child’s memory, they build connections between the past and the present. Children who have had opportunities with parents to joint reminisce can manage a current situation with better outcomes by looking back at past events.
Parents are wise to bring up memories from time to time. By doing so, they help build self-regulation or the ability to stay calm and collected in stressful situations. The best part of joint reminiscing is that it helps families connect and bond over something done as a family. Whether reminiscing over a family vacation or staycation, a memorable moment or one that you wish you could forget, sharing memories helps anchor a child in the present all the while boosting executive functions - just by "remembering the time".
In sessions with children that I work with, I often ask, "remember the time..." to either jog a student's memory of past successes or challenges that they overcame to help them get through a current difficulty.
Reminiscing about memorable moments is not only beneficial to children, but also for parents, as it helps us slow down time a little so we can savor memories with our children.