Develop Organizational Skills
Use a Daily Planner
You may notice that your child regularly forgets important books and assignments at school or at home, or she brings home every single book and folder every day, regardless of what the teacher has assigned. As a result, she can’t complete her homework, isn’t sure what she should be working on, or can’t turn her work in on time.
Many school-age school children will have these types of problems at some point, but chronic homework issues that do not seem to improve as your child gains independence and advances in school might indicate that your child is struggling to develop organizational skills.
Organization is one of our executive functions: the set of skills that let us effectively execute daily tasks.
Solution: Daily planner or assignment book
Explicit instruction and examples of how to use a daily planner or assignment book can help your child overcome organization problems, and develop this critical skill. Explicit instruction is a type of teaching where you clearly outline the steps you child must take to complete a task, and provide specific explanations for each decision. For example:
Don’t do this: Hand your child a daily planner and tell her she can use it to write down homework due dates so she can stay organized.
Try this instead: Sit next to your child with a daily planner open in front of you. Show her where and how to write down the due date of a homework assignment and materials needed, and plan for the days she will need to complete a larger project. Decide on a time at the end of each school day when she will review the notes in her planner, and collect all the books, papers and supplies she’ll need to do her work, and identify an informed adult who will review the planner and your child’s (very full or very empty) backpack.
Remember: If using a daily homework planner was easy for your child, she would have done it already. Lack of organization doesn’t equal laziness — she needs help developing the skills to do the things she knows will help her, and overcome the challenges and barriers that get in her way.
It is perfectly normal for children to experience some degree of difficulty and frustration as they learn to execute new tasks. Toddlers can tantrum, school-aged children can yell and argue, and teenagers can ignore instructions. When deciding if executive function weaknesses require intervention, ask yourself: “How frequently is this occurring? How intense is the experience/significant the impact?” If your answer to these questions is “too much,” “too often,” “I don’t know what to do to change this,” or “it’s only getting worse,” you may benefit from a face-to-face conversation to help problem-solve your concern. Effective problem solving will help you clearly identify the problem, goal, steps it will take to achieve your goal, possible barriers, and available supports.