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By Valorie Dassel, LCSW, LCAC – April 9, 2019

Organizational skills are important, whether we are professionals in the work force, parents, teenagers or children. 

Mastering this life skill will be valuable in every phase of our lives.  It is never too late to evaluate how your child is doing in enhancing this skill and help them develop the necessary strategies to be successful.  

When it comes to be organized, I firmly believe we all have the best of intentions.  I have yet to meet a student who wants to fail or be the student who doesn’t turn in their homework.  Just like with adults, children’s good intentions may not always yield good results.    

Parents can start with children as young as 2 or 3 years old.  Developing organizational skills is much like learning to ride a bike.  We don’t just sit our children on the seat of a bike and let them go.  We hold the seat of their bike until they seem sturdy.  Even then, we often run beside them to catch them if they lose their balance.  

The same strategy should be used in teaching our children organizational skills.  In the beginning of the process a parent should be very involved.  As they are ready for more independence, children can be given more responsibility and the parent can become more of a monitor. 

The academic setting is the perfect place to begin teaching these life skills that can be carried over throughout a lifetime.  A key component is allowing a child to develop an organizational system that makes sense to them.  What may seem to make the most sense to you may not be what makes sense to your child.  Therefore, allow your child to have ownership as you guide them by gently pointing out suggestions and potential pitfalls of their plan. 

Here are some tips to help you as the teacher and role model of organizational skills:

  1. Begin with consistency at home.  Having a set study time after school will provide a consistent routine that promotes good time management.
  2. Aid your child in organizing their backpack and binder to provide a system that prevents papers from being shoved into books, etc. 
  3. Strongly support your child using his/her agenda.  Developing the habit of writing down assignments/tests/events in the agenda as soon as the teacher assigns it in class will set them up for success.  This habit will lead to independent success in the academic years to follow.  This task is often overlooked by students as they get busy or distracted and forget to write things down.  This step is extremely important, so you may consider a reward system in the initial phase of developing this strategy that supports creating the habit.
  4. Create a to-do list and break down big projects into smaller tasks.  In a different color ink, fill in extra-curricular plans to help your child plan in advance to avoid evenings which will not allow enough time to accomplish the necessary tasks. 

As Donna Goldberg from the NYU Child Study Center emphasizes the importance of these skills, she clarifies the need for students with special needs in particular.  Children with attention difficulties often miss details and find organization difficult.  Those with executive functioning issues often have trouble with prioritizing and sequencing.  Children with auditory processing difficulties often don’t take in everything that is being taught.  Recognizing your child’s individual needs and teaching them how to compensate with organizational skills will be a lesson leading to success for a lifetime.

By Christine Weinzapfel-Hayden, LCSW, Courier & Press, June 20, 2017 –

Many of us remember that when we graduated from high school we were not truly prepared for “real life” outside the classroom.  Sure, we probably learned basic history, math and English skills, but we may not have mastered some of the other concepts we needed to be successful in life.

Summer is a great time to work with your child on some of these essential life skills.  Successfulstudent.org provides a list of important basics to teach our children:

  • Saving: We need to spend less than we earn.  Teach your child at an early age to put part of the money received or earned in the bank.  Help your child set a savings goal, work toward their goal and then make the purchase of the saved-for item.
  • Budgeting: Teach your child the simple skills involved with establishing and following a budget.  Practicing this concept early on will make budgeting easier when they are an adult.
  • Charity: Encourage your child to give to charity – money, time and talents — as they are able.
  • Critical Thinking: Introduce critical thinking, the objective analysis and evaluation of a situation or issue in order to form a judgment.  Teach your child ways to look up information if they have a question that requires a thought-out answer or opinion.
  • Positive Thinking: It is important to have a positive outlook on life.  By helping your child find solutions instead of just registering complaints, they will learn to believe in themselves and block out negative self-talk and thinking.
  • Motivation: Teach your child that motivation is the key to reaching a goal.  Help them learn different strategies for self-motivation.
  • Compassion: Help your child put themselves in the shoes of someone else.  Help them understand and find ways to ease others’ suffering.
  • Listening: Children need to learn to listen attentively and respectfully, understand what is being said and empathize with others.
  • Basic Auto Mechanics: Both boys and girls need to know the basics of how a car works, what might break down and how it can be fixed (how to pump gas, check the oil, change a flat tire, etc.).
  • Household: When you are fixing things around the house, explain the process to your child.  Basic understanding of home repairs and maintenance can prepare your child for living on their own.
  • Cleaning: Teach your child how to do laundry, clean a house properly and keep living quarters clean and uncluttered.  Show them how to set up a weekly and monthly cleaning routine.  Instead of just telling them what needs to be done, teach them the process and then encourage them to do it on their own.
  • Be present: Live in the present and enjoy life.  Develop a close relationship with your child and model appropriate relationships with your spouse, family members and friends.  Teach them the skills for developing these types of close relationships and the importance of working through the bumpy parts as well.

Through modeling, teaching and being present with your child you are helping them prepare for the classroom outside of school – life!