When I practiced as a school social worker, I noticed that a common reason why many of my students were performing poorly was because they were disorganized and would often do things like forget to turn in assignments, wait until the last minute to start working on projects, etc. This was especially true for my middle school students who now had to change classes and had multiple teachers.
Children these days are busy both with activities during school and afterschool. They will have a difficult time keeping up if they lack strong organizational skills. This is why it‘s important that parents and caregivers teach children how to plan ahead and develop an organizational system that prepares them for success.
Signs Your Child Is Disorganized
Here are some signs that your child might need some help improving their organizational skills. These children typically:
- Struggle to complete tasks on time
- Forget to bring home books and other materials necessary to complete their homework
- Forget to turn in completed work assignments
- Start working on long term projects the night before
- Shove assignments and handouts in their backpack instead of in a folder
- Can’t find enough time to study
- Study for tests last minute
Benefits of Being Organized
There are many benefits to your child being able to maintain some sort of order and structure in their lives through being organized. Some benefits of children with strong organizational skills are they:
- Spend less time completing assignments
- Experience less frustration when doing their work
- Able to plan for the future
- Experience less overall stress
- Perform better academically
Ways to Improve Your Child’s Organizational Skills
Below are some strategies you can use to help your child improve their organizational skills so they can be prepared for success:
- Post a family calendar. A family calendar placed in a highly visible location is a helpful visual aide for children. You can use it to remind them of any appointments, activities or assignments coming due. Try sitting down with your family and discussing their obligations for the upcoming week. Have your child enter their own activities on the family calendar so they can take ownership and responsibility for meeting their commitments.
- Get a planner for your child. A planner is a must have organizational tool. Have your child write down daily assignments, due dates, and other pertinent information in their planner. Encourage your child to check their planner throughout the day to make sure they are following through with their obligations.
- Create a to-do list. Keeping a to-do list is a great way for children to learn how to plan and prioritize their time. They can use a to-do list to keep track of chores that need to be done, homework assignments coming due, etc. You want to make sure your child’s to do list is reasonable. When children feel overwhelmed with tasks and activities, they sometimes cope by becoming defiant and might refuse to complete the task at all.
- Break down large tasks into smaller parts. If your child has a huge task to complete, try breaking it down into smaller parts to make it more manageable for them. For example, let’s say your child is assigned a science project. Instead of doing the entire project all at once, break it down into steps (i.e. Step 1: Select a research topic, Step 2: Gather information, Step 3: Conduct an experiment, etc.)
- Organize handouts and worksheets from school. Kids get quite a bit of paper handouts from school. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve opened my son’s back pack only to find a mountain of old worksheets, quizzes, and old tests. Schedule a time with your child to routinely clean out their backpack and to organize school paperwork. Encourage them to use binders and/or folders to organize their worksheets.
- Prepare in advance. An important aspect of being organized is knowing how to think and plan ahead. Taking the time to prepare things in advance can greatly reduce the stress and anxiety related to putting things off until the last minute. An example of how your child can prepare in advance is to have them pack their back packs and lay out their clothes for the next day. If they are old enough, they can also pack their own lunch from the night before.
- Create a homework routine. Work with your child to determine what the best time for them is to complete their homework. Some kids might prefer to do their work as soon as they get home from school, while others will want to unwind a bit before starting their work.
- Designate a homework/study area. You want to make sure your child has easy access to pencils, pens, paper, scissors, and any other materials they will need to finish their homework. The last thing you want to do is waste time rummaging all over the house looking for a #2 pencil so they can start their work. The homework area should be quiet with limited or no distractions. I don’t recommend allowing your child to do homework or study in their room. Children tend to be easily distracted when they are surrounded by their belongings.
- Praise your child when they exhibit good organizational skills. Children respond well to praise, which makes praise an effective way to reinforce your child’s efforts to develop an organizational routine. Also, some children will struggle with developing their organizational skills and will require positive encouragement to remain motivated.
- Model good organization skills for your child. Your child is always watching what you do. When they see you practicing good organizational skills, they learn from the example you set and are likely to mimic your behavior.
If you are interested in finding out more ways to teach your child organizational skills and other valuable life skills such as time management, money management, and decision making skills, please check out Kiddie Matter’s new e-Book, Life Skills For Kids: Preparing Children For Success.