Shared Concern, Common Goal
These days, it seems like we are always talking to parents who have a shared concern. They want their teen to make progress on big goals but are unsure how much responsibility they can handle. There are lots of schoolwork and extracurriculars, but the organizational skills for students might be a challenge. Even high achieving teens struggle to stay organized with a hectic schedule. The good news is that with a few simple habits, every teen can help build a solid foundation that will maximize their success. Starting in middle school, they can develop communication, organizational, and self-monitoring skills that will make meeting those demands easier.
While many parents may think that their kids are “just that way”, you know, disorganized, messy, always losing their homework… the reality is that organizational skills are developed the same way they would get better at soccer, singing, or programming… What am I talking about? PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE.
We found some great information thanks to the Harvard Center on the Developing Child that we wanted to share. This amazing resource helped us better understand what activities are appropriate for a young teen to develop organizational skills along with communication, and self-monitoring skills.
Here’s a sneak peek: They are ready to develop these skills right now!
It’s Kind of a Big Deal
Without being overdramatic, the ability to develop planning, focusing, and multi-tasking skills essentially determine how well you or your teen navigate life. They have been shown to predict success in math more than IQ. These are known as Executive Functioning skills, and they are critical to learning. This helped us understand that teens are ready to begin improving organizing skills starting in middle school, as well as monitoring themselves on their work and progress.
You can IMPROVE organizational skills just like you would for skills for a sport or an instrument
We can help our teens become more organized, focused, in control of their emotions and actions. These help teens achieve their long and short-term goals. All of this can be done without another expensive private tutor, coach, or instructor.
In our research, we found an Activities Guide by the Harvard Center on the Developing Child, which is extremely useful because it breaks down the specific organizational and cognitive skills that are expected by age group. It also details activities that can be used to develop or strengthen the different type of executive functioning skills. Executive functioning skills is an umbrella term that includes organizational skills.
Five Simple Habits for Teens
Without further ado, here are Five Simple Habits we got from this incredible resource. I also recommend you read through this Activity Guide yourself when you have the time.
Teens are ready to practice autonomy in areas of their life. Ready might not be a strong enough word, they NEED it. Periodically stop and check if they’re working on what they’re supposed to be working on, or whether they got distracted. A timer can be helpful for this exercise. This way they are responsible for identifying their own bad habits and taking actions to correct them.
2. FOCUSED PLANNING:
Your teen needs to pursue a goal they care about deeply and develop a plan for making progress on it. Break this goal into time-bound specific subtasks. They need at least one goal that they are passionate about, something that moves them.
3. POSITIVE SELF-TALK:
Sometimes it’s difficult to think of the process and not the results. But as teens learn new things, they will stumble. For example, you can help them reframe their experience as a way to identify possible improvements for next time. This growth mindset will encourage them to keep working because hard work leads to continuous improvement.
Reflection every day at all costs. This is simply too important to skimp out on. It doesn’t have to be an hour in a monk-like pose. A journal, a simple reflection-based worksheet, and 15-20 minutes before bed is a great place to start. Reflecting on negative events, successes, feelings, and maybe most importantly how they speak to themselves in their inner dialogue.
5. GO OFFLINE:
Your teen NEEDS a break from screen time. This is especially true when they are doing school work or practicing from their extracurricular. Learning to focus on one thing, and only one thing, in the age of multitasking is increasingly important.
Get To Work!
So, let’s get to work! Write these down visit them at the end of each day for a week. Ask your teen if they did each one and make time before bed if applicable. How exactly you choose to go about each exercise will be unique to your teen and your parenting style. What is truly important is making time and an effort to get these skills developing. Let’s start establishing healthy constructive routines in our lives to build up our organizational skills and productive habits.
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