Ahhhh, the end of another school year! No more tests, no more homework, no more lunches to make and no more arguing with your child about staying organized. For some children, just the word “organizing “ can dance on their last nerve. For these children, parents walk a very fine line when broaching this topic. Parents need to have a conversation with their children to assess the organizing strategies that were successful and the strategies that need improving. Do yourself a favor and wait about a week after school ends, before you have this conversation with your child.
Below are some helpful hints for parents to discuss the topic of assessing the organizing strategies.
1) Ask your CHILD to think about the organizing strategies that worked and did NOT work for him. For example, some children like to use one folder for each subject, while others like to use a binder for ALL subjects. You might have to prompt your child to identify the strategies he used.
2) Ask specific questions. Many children with executive dysfunction are concrete thinkers. If you ask a vague question, you’ll get a vague answer. Don’t ask, “ What worked for you and didn’t work for you?” Ask questions like, “Why did you prefer to use the single binder as opposed to multiple binders? “.
3) Make a list of the organizing strategies you observed your child using this school year. Cite the positive observations first. Set the tone of the conversation to be motivating and encouraging, so your child will be open to hear your thoughts. Don’t have a laundry list of 10 items on your list; make it concise. Remember, you might lose him after discussing the third item on your list.
4) Have a discussion with your child. Hear what he has to say about your observations. Be mindful that constructive criticisms can still be difficult to hear, no matter how old we are. Think back to when you were a teen and your mom tried to offer you some advice or gave you some constructive criticism. It wasn’t always easy to hear. If your child is becoming agitated or defensive, stop the conversation. Forcing him to continue talking about a topic he doesn't want to discuss will only end up in an argument.
5) Brainstorm on how to make improvements on your child’s strategies for the next school year. Make a list of the strategies that need to be tweaked. Discuss with your child how strategies could be more successful for her. For example, if she told you the reason she did not use her planner was because it did not provide enough lines to accommodate her large handwriting, take note of that. When purchasing school supplies, you will need to seek out a planner that provides more space for writing.
6) Implement some organizing strategies over the summer. If she used a planner to keep track of her homework (by the grace of God let’s hope she did) have her use the planner to plan out summer activities. Routine is key for these strategies to become embedded.
Approach your child about having this discussion when he seems to have decompressed and relaxed about school. Getting him while he’s calm is always a better strategy. Remember to go to the office supply stores early in the summer while these strategies are fresh in your mind. Shopping at this time of year, will allow you and your child to pick from a larger variety of products. And, most importantly, You ‘ll avoid the frantic rush of the back to school shopping crowds!
Marcella Moran, LMHC