Teaching Your Child Organizational Skills

By Ana Homayoun

organizational skills for kidsAs a single mom, you know being organized is the key to running a smooth household. But for many children, shuffling between households can be a challenge for everyone, especially when it comes to keeping track of homework, text books, schedules and other personal objects. Teaching your children how to get and stay organized at an early age will be a valuable skill they will use throughout their life.

Read this scenario provided by Ana Homayoun, Founder and Director of Green Ivy Educational Consulting. If you implement some of these techniques you just might see your child’s confidence increase as well as their grades.

Scenario: Last year, Jared began coming to our office because his mom was worried about how his disorganization was adversely affecting his grades. Jared was a likable seventh grader, but when we opened his backpack we found crumpled papers, dog-eared notebooks, binders with broken rings and half eaten pencils strewn about.

During our first session, we went through every single piece of paper and created organized binders (no easy feat!) and Jared seemed more confident about his ability to find everything. When we started to talk about his routine at home, however, things became a little more challenging and I started to see the full picture as to why he was struggling.

Jared’s parents were separated, and he was shuttling between two households. Just keeping track of textbooks, what computer each long-term paper was saved on, and where his soccer cleats were had become overwhelming, in addition to the emotions tied to the break-up of his parents. Each household had its own dynamic – and as a result Jared was unable to come up with his own routine to consistently complete his work and feel on top of things. When I consulted with both parents, we developed some strategies to help make the transition smoother:

Discuss School Related Issues in the Parenting Plan. Most parenting plans don’t discuss the specifics of where, when and how kids will do their homework or what sorts of routines and management will be in each home. As a result, kids sometimes have to switch off between different routines, which can be jarring and overwhelming. If you have a parenting partner, discuss how you can each create similar structures within both households. For example, Sunday evenings can be the designated weekly re-group time, where kids can go through their backpack, clean out any old papers, hole-punch and file assignments as necessary, and update their planners. Even if their Sunday evenings are alternated between homes, kids can still have the routine if both parents cooperate – after all, it’s for the benefit of the kids.

Allow Flexibility with Switch-offs Depending on the Needs of Your Child(ren). One of Jared’s biggest issues was that he never knew which night he was spending at which home because his parents were so in flux that they sometimes decided his evening plans the morning of – which wreaked havoc on his ability to have any semblance of control over his situation. I have had students who spend a week at each parent’s home, and then have others who alternate mid-week or on a nightly basis. For many kids, alternating on a nightly basis can add an element of overwhelming stress that few admit to their parents. When creating the switch-off routine, be mindful of your kids personal needs, and be flexible enough to understand when it may be helpful to them for changes to be made.

Create a Routine Study Place and Schedule at Each Home. Each home should have a study space free of technological distractions, where kids can do their homework in a study hall scenario each evening. In Jared’s home, he was doing his homework at his mom’s dining room table, but his dad’s house didn’t have a set place and time for him to do his homework yet, so assignments were falling through the cracks. Once both parents had a set study space and time each evening he was at their homes, he was able to work within the support system that had been created, and always knew he had a time and place to do his work (note: many junior high and high school students need the support system put in place for them to develop the study habits). We also had Jared create a “school supplies” box for each home, where he put a hole-punch, reinforcements, binder paper and other necessities so he wasn’t wandering around or wasting time because he couldn’t find the right materials.

Encourage your Children to E-mail Assignments to themselves so they have a back up. Flash drives get lost – and with kids sometime shuttling from place to place, having them email themselves the assignment can save the inevitable hassle of saving it on the wrong computer.

Develop a Centralized Calendar. Between soccer games, trombone lessons, awards night and other kid-related challenges, scheduling can be near impossible. Using gmail calendar or another online calendar tool, both parents and children can maintain a centralized calendar – as long as it’s updated appropriately. For parents and kids who have put in the effort, the centralized calendar has helped kids feel more in control and less overwhelmed, especially if they know where they are spending the night and if there are any changes, where they can be found. A centralized calendar also helps parents stay on track when soccer games/times get switched and communication is tough between parents for a variety of reasons.

Once Jared was able to implement some simple changes in his life, he was able to feel more control of his schoolwork – and ultimately became more confident in his own abilities both inside and outside of the classroom.

Ana Homayoun is the Founder and Director of Green Ivy Educational Consulting, an educational consulting firm that encourages junior high and high school students to create their own framework for academic and personal success. Since 2001, Green Ivy has helped hundreds of students improve their GPAs, raise their standardized test scores, and set and attain remarkable goals. A graduate of Duke University, Homayoun also holds a Masters Degree in Counseling from the University of San Francisco. She lives in Northern California.

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