Teenagers do want to organize their lives, but they often feel lost when told to clean their room or straighten their school binders. The importance of modeling and helping them reach organizational goals is paramount: teens will soon be at college or working, likely responsible for bills and housing. Organization, a basic life skill, optimizes production once sensible systems are in place. Teaching teens the importance of organizational skills will make their life easier at home and at school.
Listen to your teen's concerns about organization. Brainstorm his feelings: frustrated? overwhelmed? upset? Ask not only what organization systems fail, but what also works in his life. Discuss creating a solution together, and reiterate that disorganization can cause life problems. For instance, a lack of organization can lead to students leaving college, according to Robert Feldman, a psychology professor at the University of Massachusetts. Stress that organization is attainable with patience and consistency.
Make a list with your teen about needed organization. Think about all aspects of life: time management, room order, school locker and school supplies. Consider making separate lists for each area. For instance, a school supplies list could include binders and folders for each class, plus writing utensils and paper. Pay attention to specific needs of the teen; some keep busy with sports while others work a part-time job.
Take inventory of physical items. Look for previously used organizers, such as binder dividers and baskets. Color coding may help some teens, while others prefer one color for a crisp appearance. Go shopping if necessary using the inventory for guidance on sizes and quantity. Folders may not work for classes with numerous assignments; a binder may work better. A bedroom may need a hamper or a shoe rack. A wall calendar provides visualization for time commitments.
Once the desk, bedroom or locker area is tidied, the commitment begins. Spending a weekend straightening and cleaning is the start of the journey to an organized life. Implementation requires patience and repetition. At a designated time (perhaps the end of the day), ask your teen if he followed the systems. Some parent-teen partnerships have a code word as a reminder. Organization must become part of the daily routine.
Working with your teen is admirable, but the ultimate goal is independence with an organizational system. Revisit the systems after giving your teen an honest attempt, such as a month. Tweak where organizational tools are located or when your teen arranges the items. Be open that you will only step in periodically. Your teen should show ownership in his organization, with parents giving minimal advice.