by Marcella Moran, LMHC
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 strike a sensitive nerve. For these children especially, 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 improvement. Below are some helpful hints for parents to discuss the topic of assessing the organizing strategies.
- Make your list of the organizing strategies you noticed that were successful and not so successful for your child. Be very specific in your examples but make sure not to come across as nagging. The examples you indicate should be of strategies that were consistently not functioning or that were successful. Don’t have a laundry list of 10 items on your list. Make your list concise. Remember, you might lose him after discussing the third item on your list.
- Ask your child to list 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.
- Ask specific questions. Most of the children with executive dysfunction I worked with are concrete thinkers. If you ask a vague question, you’ll get a vague answer. Ask questions like, “Why did you prefer to use the single binder as opposed to multiple binders? “.
- Share your list with your child. Cite the positive observations first. You want to set the tone as motivating and encouraging, so your child will be open to hear what you think she needs to improve on.
- Have a discussion with your child. Hear what he has to say about your observations. Keep in mind that as adults, when we are confronted with constructive criticism, sometimes we can become defensive. Think back to when you were a teen and your parents tried to offer you some advise or gave you some constructive criticism. It wasn’t always easy to hear, especially from your parents. Be mindful that your child may be having the same experience.
- Brainstorm on how to make improvements on your child’s strategies for the next school year. If she told you the reason she did not use her planner was because it did not provide enough lines to accommodate his large handwriting, take note of that. When purchasing school supplies, you will need to seek out a planner that provides more space for writing.
- Implement the 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.
By no means am I suggesting having this conversation with your child on the last day of school. 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. Will also afford you the opportunity to have more items to choose from.