Projects are due, essays are being typed, quizzes and subject tests are piling up and the final exams are listed on the school homepages. If your child was feeling overwhelmed with schoolwork before June, I’m sure he’s feeling inundated with the last round up of school assignments and tests. As the parent, I have no doubt that you want to jump right in and help your child glue the small pieces of construction paper to his science project, make vocab flash cards for her Spanish final and set up a study plan for finals week. However there is one big problem. Your child doesn’t want your help!
It’s downright painful to watch your disorganized child struggle with his/her executive functions during the school year. At this time of year, not only is your child feeling anxious about getting all the assignments completed but you may find yourself silently “freaking out” that your child is not allowing you to help him. Many of our parents want to know how they can help their disorganized child without it turning into World War III.
Here are some easy tips to help your child manage the end of the school year demands.
- Own Your Feelings. Acknowledge that you feel frustrated, anxious, mad, sad and even angry that your child is not accepting your help. Yes, it’s infuriating. I want you to stop and think about what your facial expressions look like and your tone of voice sounds like when you are mad, frustrated, anxious, etc. Kids, at any age, are very perceptive. Many, if not ALL, the students who come through our doors tell us that they don’t want help from Mom and Dad because it always ends in a fight. Kids can pick up on emotional cues much quicker than you may think. How many times has your son accused you of “yelling” at him when you clearly were not? Has your daughter accused you of “sighing” too much or making that “angry” face when you tried to help her with Math? Remaining calm, positive, and non-judgmental, will create a more secure atmosphere for your child. Remember that this can be an emotionally chaotic time of year for your child; she needs Mom and Dad to be in this turbulent state too.
- Stop Micromanaging. I had a middle school student, Jane, who complained about her parents constantly wanting to help her study. Dad would peek his head into Jane’s bedroom while she was doing homework, notice that she was working on math, and then insist on helping Jane. Mom continually asked Jane,” Can I help you with making flash cards, Honey?”. On her usual response, Jane would say, “No Mom, I’m fine!” As parents of disorganized children, we know that Jane could’ve benefited from Dad and Mom’s help. But to no avail, Jane refused any of their help. In my session with Jane, the only thing she wanted from her parents was not to be asked about school. “I just want them to be Mom and Dad not micro manage me!” In my session with Mom and Dad, I suggested that they back off. I wanted them to let Jane know that they were going to stop asking her a ton of questions about school. Mom and Dad told Jane that they were very willing to help her but ONLY if she asked. During homework time, Mom only asked Jane if she wanted something to eat and drink while working on homework. Dad would only sneak his head into Jane’s room to say Hi. Mom and Dad were very mindful to be calm, soft spoken and have their’ Smiley face” on when speaking to Jane during HW time. Within days of Mom and Dad’s new approach, Jane asked Mom for some help with her homework. A Win –Win for everyone.
- Get the teacher involved. Students are often more willing to listen to a teacher than to a parent regarding school. If you know that your child’s time management skills are poor, email a teacher or guidance counselor and ask if he or she would sit with your child and design a study plan for the next few weeks that would include the remaining assignments and exams. Don’t forget to let the teacher know of your child’s after school commitments so they can incorporate it into the schedule.
- Mom, can you help me. If your child allows you to help her devise a plan to reduce the end of the year stress, start with listing all of the assignments and their due dates. If your child is feeling very overwhelmed, only make a time management plan for a week at a time. Since disorganized kids can often be “time” challenged, brainstorm with your child how long it will probably take to complete an assignment. For students who feel pressured when they are given specific time slots to work within, create a plan that has extended time slots. I like to use colored pencils or post its to create these plans so the student can edit when need be. Make a copy of the plan you developed and ask your child to place it at eye level to where he/she is working. DO NOT place it on the working desk where it can be buried under books and papers.
Remember that summer vacation is within sight. Use that time to have a discussion with your child about the organizing strategies that worked for him during the school year and the strategies that may need some improving. Brainstorm on how your child can have a more “organized” school year in the Fall.