Yesterday, at approximately 7:57 am, I received this text from my 4th grade daughter:
“I left all my homework at home!!!!!!!” I counted 7 exclamation points.
It was difficult fighting the urge to run home to get her homework as I pictured the faucet of tears running down her adorable little
face. But I chose to let her suffer whatever consequence the teacher had in store. Hopefully, not having her homework assignment l forces her into realizing the importance of keeping her shit together—not Mommy or Daddy running home to save the day. How hard can it be to put homework back in a book bag after completion? Apparently it’s very hard for some children.
Oh, I had you fooled! The Dean of Parents has perfectly organized compliant, scholar-athletes that say please and thank-you and curtsy when you walk by, right?
This is the same daughter notorious for forgetting her lunch, completed school projects, jackets, sweaters, coats, gloves, shoes, money, or anything she did not purchase.
And by the way, we had the audacity to buy her a cell phone.
If you enter the words “help your child get organized” in the GOOGLE search box, a lot of information is listed, particularly articles written to support children with ADHD. But we all display neurological deficiencies that make it hard to even remember the reason we walked into a room. Dr. Scott Crouse, developer of LDinfo.com and school psychologist shares that Executive Function is a term used to define the neurological processes that allow us to organize, prioritize, and analyze. Without it, you have difficulty
- staying focused on tasks
- organizing thoughts and materials
- following-through and completing tasks
- coping with unstructured situations
- coping with change in routines
- regulating emotions
Describe you, huh? Stop it with the heart palpitations. Don’t call a therapist just yet. Let me share a few tips on how I support my kids’ efforts with staying organized. Obviously these tips haven’t magically turned my 4th grader into the epitome of organization. But they have minimized the frustrations of wanting to wring her neck and may help your occasional bouts of discombobulation.
Give belongings a home. Unless you’re cousins with Martha Stewart, this will always remain a work-in-progress. Pencils and Crayola washable markers belong in the pencil case. Notes belong in the right side of the pocket folder. Nintendo DS stays home on the bookshelf.
You get the picture. If they don’t comply, tell them you’ll donate every out-of-place item to the Salvation Army.
Post a visible master family calendar. If you have the space, tear three months of pages from an oversized desk calendar and post them to highly visible wall in your home. Assign a color for each family member and write all activities on the calendar. If gym is on Tuesdays and Thursdays, they know to wear gym clothes instead of that cute leopard-print tulle skirt. My 7th grader’s tennis days are written in green and my 4th graders guitar days are written in blue. My hair salon days are written in red. And while typing this blog, I realized I have no color assigned for my husband.
Help kids organize book bags at least twice a week. I can’t stand crumpled papers in the bottom of a book bag, or folders stained with old Cheetos crumbs. Kids need you as their organizational consultant to help them develop good habits to stay organized. Remove two- month-old homework. Check for raisins that used to be grapes. Do this on Friday evenings. Teachers like requesting odd amounts like $5.53 for field trips and class parties, and hard to find chapter books, so this practice gives you time to get your ducks in a row as well.
Provide two supply cases. Keep one case in the school desk/locker and one case in the book bag. If kids have after school programs that allow time to tackle homework, make sure they keep an additional supply case, in their book bag, stocked with sharpened pencils, crayons, scissors, and other items to help with homework completion.
Develop a nightly routine. Are clothes ready for the next morning? Is homework in the book bag? (swear I asked the 4th grader this question) Is the guitar next to the tennis bag on top of the science fair project by the door? Is the lunch prepared? Do you have the
$5.53 for the field trip, in an envelope already tucked in the folder?
Role-play real situations. When school dismisses the hallway becomes chaos at its finest. Tell your kid to block out the distractions to make sure homework is in their book bag, jacket on their body, glasses on their face, and lunch box and violin in hand. Remind them while Ryan is excitedly sharing secrets to winning the Final Fantasy XII Revenant Wings Nintendo DS video game, block him out—or remind him to
shut-up and get his shit together before the bus leaves the both of them.
Designate a workspace. Your kid needs a desk. Not the dining room table decorated with the mornings cranberry juice--or your home office
space because your credit card statement will become the math scratch paper--and the teacher will discover the reason you aren’t able to come up with $5.53.
Set a good example. Are your clothes ready the night before? Are you scrambling around in the morning gathering your belongings? Are you constantly misplacing your wallet? Don’t make your motto “do as I say, not as I do.”
Now, what did I do with my keys?