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By Dawn Tedrow, LCSW – January 14, 2020

Many teens struggle with forgetting daily assignments and losing their homework, or they become overwhelmed thinking about the amount of work that needs to be completed. Being unorganized creates tremendous stress for people. 

It is important to teach our students good organizational skills to not only reduce stress at school but to help them continue to be successful throughout life.  I have some useful tips for helping your teen become more organized.

First and foremost, get them in the habit of using an agenda book. Most school bookstores sell them to students for a small fee. If they aren’t already in the habit of using an agenda book, I recommend reminding them daily and rewarding them with praise until they have gotten used to carrying it to every class and filling it out. 

I also recommend that students write in the book even if they don’t have an assignment due, by simply noting, “No homework.”  This will help them get into the habit of using the book during every class. If they forget to use it, simply remind them to start again. 

You can easily see if it is being used by sitting down with your teen at a designated time to review what homework needs to be completed each day.  Using positive and encouraging statements will help them view this as a pleasant task rather than you “nagging” at them.

Try to find ways to make the agenda book more interesting by purchasing different color ink pens or stickers.  I use different colors of sticky notes to put extra notes in my planner.  I find most agenda books to be too small for all of my tasks. If your teen runs into this problem, you might consider purchasing a planner with larger spaces for notes. 

One of my favorite planners is the Panda Planner, which can be purchased at www.pandaplanner.com.  The spaces are larger, allowing for more room to write necessary details about assignments to be completed.  They also break down according to the week and help teach the individual how to plan their month, week, and day. I easily plan my week and identify the top priority for each day.

Another simple tool for teens is what I refer to as a “homework folder.”  This is such a simple tool to keep homework assignments in a place that is easy to find so they don’t get lost.  I get a red folder with 3 clasps and place sheet protectors inside. 

There should be a sheet protector for each class (even gym) and then an extra one for documents that are sent home for parents, such as picture day or emergency contact forms to be completed.  I use colorful labels to identify each class. The folder is carried to every class. Students are instructed to place homework to be completed inside the appropriately labeled sheet protector. 

Once they have completed the assignment, they place it back in the sheet protector until they turn it in to their teacher. Graded assignments do not go back into the homework folder. They are placed in separate folders for the class. This is a quick and easy way to avoid lost homework.

Supplying your teenager with these simple tools will help them to stay organized and reduce school-related stress and anxiety.

By Dawn Tedrow, LCSW, November 29, 2018 –

My son perfected his excuses for missing homework around sixth grade, and for some reason it became my problem.  That’s a strange thing for a parent to say, but I really felt as though teachers were accusing me of not being an adequate parent because I couldn’t ensure my child completed his homework at home.

This created a dynamic between the teachers and me, allowing my son to step back and play his games while I hashed it out with school.  Everyone was working harder for his success, and he had manipulated me into believing he was the victim.  It was toward the end of his eighth-grade year that I admitted defeat, and finally realized the problem was ME.

I was not listening to the information given to me by the teacher, because in my head, I was being told “You are a bad parent” – and it was hurtful.  The tone of my voice when talking about the teacher became negative, and my son fueled this.  He even went to school and told his teachers, “My mom doesn’t like you, and it makes her mad when you call her.”  I was my own worst enemy.

Taking a look at how I responded to teacher concerns was a big help for me.  Instead of taking the information as a personal attack, I reminded myself the teacher was attempting to form a positive alliance to determine why he was not turning in homework.  I hadn’t taught my son to be accountable and take responsibility for his actions.

Here are some suggestions for teaching this skill:

  1. Model positive communication with the teacher, and encourage the same from your child. When your child begins making negative statements about their teacher, redirect them to think about things they like about the teacher.
  2. Practice appropriate responses. There is an appropriate time and way to let the teacher know your child needs help or you don’t agree with a decision.
  3. Help your child see things from another’s point of view. This is particularly helpful for students who believe their teacher doesn’t like them.
  4. Do not make excuses for your child. Teach them to own their mistakes.  Everyone makes mistakes, and it’s alright.  Teach your child to admit their mistakes, then think of ways to prevent it from happening again.
  5. Encourage your child to process their feelings appropriately. It is perfectly normal to become upset, but it isn’t appropriate to throw a fit in the classroom.  Practice ways your child can excuse themselves from the classroom in order to calm down.  Discourage yelling, throwing things, slamming the door, and calling names.
  6. Be prepared to side with the teacher. Your natural instinct is to protect your child, so this is difficult for many parents.  It may be necessary to take 24 hours to think about information and decide how to respond to the situation.  Your child needs to know you support them, but you must also respect the teacher.  It is your responsibility to help mold your child into a successful member of society who treats others with respect.  This is a skill that will be used in college, jobs, and future relationships.
  7. Set clear expectations. Sit down with your child and write clear consequences for their actions.  For example:  Student is told he will lose cell phone for 24 hours if he has missing homework.
  8. Follow through. It is very important to always follow through with consequences.  There is no negotiation.  If you don’t follow through with consequences every single time, then behavior will continue to escalate.

It may not be the easiest thing to do as a parent, but it’s worth it. Holding kids accountable for their actions will help mold them into successful, responsible adults.

By Dawn Tedrow, LCSW, Dec. 5, 2017 –

There are a lot of things to be unhappy about in our world today.  Everyone has their own opinion when it comes to politics and current affairs, and many are not shy about expressing their feelings. If you open up your social media news feed and read through the comments, you will see a lot of negativity.

What about you? Have you taken a look at your own attitude and behavior lately?

We try to raise our children to be well rounded individuals, to know the difference between right and wrong and to handle conflict appropriately.

Sometimes things are said just for the sake of stirring up an argument with someone who posted their opinion.  We feel hurt by things people post, and want them to know they have offended us.  But what is the right way to handle this conflict?

We must remember that our children are observing our reactions to these situations and they are often mirroring our behavior.

As a parent, I am entitled to my own beliefs that influence how I raise my child.  However, I am also responsible for ensuring they conduct themselves in a way that is respectful.  Perhaps it is time to review the idea that we can “agree to disagree.”

Be mindful of how you respond to situations you disagree with.  I am also guilty of uttering something under my breath about the latest news.  What I would like my child to take away from the moment is that I don’t agree with what is being said or done.  But your child is also hearing the words you are saying and thinking of how to apply it to situations in their young life.

Unfortunately, our bad behaviors may teach our children to handle a situation in an inappropriate way and they may ultimately be punished for it.  We are setting our children up for failure by not keeping our own reactions in check.

The next time you are watching the news and disagree with what is being reported, take a moment to think about how you should respond.  What do you want your child to learn from your reaction?  How would you like them to react to a difficult situation at school when you are not present?

The first step in expressing yourself in a positive manner is by starting with “I feel.”  Surprisingly, many children don’t know how to describe their feelings, so it might be helpful to have a list of feelings available for them to look at while instructing them in this skill.  “I feel angry” and “I feel sad” are some examples.

Once the child understands how to identify their feelings, you can begin teaching them to identify what is making them have this feeling. For example, “I feel angry when you tell me to pick up my toys.”

Practice modeling this behavior around your children and continue to encourage them to use their words instead of acting out inappropriately.  As always, be sure to praise them for using their words in a respectful and appropriate manner.