Dr Asha Pemberton
Considering their stage of development, many teenagers struggle with maintaining consistent organisational skills. This is often a source of frustration to the young people, their parents and teachers leading to a vicious cycle of arguments, anxiety and angst. Following are some useful strategies that can been used.
Wear a watch
Although more and more we tend to rely on cell-phones to check the time, one organisational tool which has been neglected is the simple wrist watch. Watches have the added advantage of not being completely connected to social media and other sources of distraction, while doing the job for which they are intended. While cell-phones most certainly have the ability to keep time, set alarms and display stopwatches, we simply cannot ignore the other aspects which tend to lead away from focus and diligent work. Teenagers should make a habit of assigning a specific time frame to an activity and keeping the discipline of sticking to that time. Through this process, they develop discipline and the efficiency to complete tasks in the time prescribed.
Write it down
The use of a planner is essential towards keeping everything that needs to be done in order and to schedule. A planner is basically a calendar combined with an assignment notebook. By keeping track of things to do each day, together with a visual reminder of things to be done, planners ensure that nothing gets forgotten. The act of ticking off or drawing a line through completed tasks has a psychological effect of confirming achievement. This in turn has positive effects on reaching for the next item on the list.
While paper planners are helpful, many teens prefer using technology. There is a wide range of organisational apps available through various platforms that can be downloaded to cell-phones, tablets and laptops. The magic still lies in consistent use.
File it away
Colour-coding is an example of a filing system that can help teens stay organised, especially at school and at home. Assigning a colour to each class or subject is a quick, inexpensive way to organise things visually. Start by choosing a different colour for each subject and using those colour folders to keep past-papers, notes, exam results and other important documents safely stored. Many young people tend to be careless and lose their notes and items. Teaching them the skills of putting things in designated spaces has future benefits of organisation in other parts of their lives.
All teenagers and tweens can improve their time management and organisational skills with the support and encouragement of their family. Without erupting into argument, young people will need gentle reminders when they fall off track or are not as disciplined as required. We certainly all make mistakes and it will take time for new habits to be developed. Scheduling, using calendars and all such skills should ideally be incorporated into whole-family activities, so that the support and encouragement exude throughout the home.
Learn from mistakes
The most powerful tool in the process of teen learning and development is through learning, making mistakes and changing behaviour. As parents, when you note that your teen has become less consistent or less organised, allow them to experience some of the negative outcomes associated with their behaviour. It is only through such disappointments that they learn and develop the will to improve. Young people have plastic and flexible minds which can be developed through their lived experiences. Organisational skills, like all skills take time to mature. Give them the space, support them with patience and allow them to grow.