by Lauralee Moss, M.A.
Summer vacation equals more freedom for teenagers and adults. Students' regular conundrum of racing out the door to school, and then to practices, and then back home to eat and to finish homework before falling into bed—ends. Parents get a break as well; their children still have activities, but something about the peaceful summer atmosphere minimizes the chaos. Summer is a time to relax. Many parents also utilize it to build family memories, especially with teenagers, as the number of years left at home dwindles.
Although the summer does provide a welcome break from daily stresses, it cannot signal a time to stop educational endeavors. Reading programs, science camps, and math contests assure teenagers options to fine-tune their academic capabilities. Organizational skills are just as important.
With their busy schedules during the school year, high school students can quickly fall behind without an organizational plan. When parenting children, you need to implement simple organizational strategies that will better the upcoming school year for both your teenagers and you. Using the summer to instill better organizational skills takes only a few minutes of every day, but the reward is lasting.
Organize daily life
Summer provides an opportunity for parents to change habits that they and teens may be reluctant to alter in the middle of a school year. Think back to what you dislike from September to May. Did your family sit down to dinner together? Did laundry pile up because no system existed? Were dirty dishes found all over the house?
Families are busy during the school year, so take the summer opportunity to adjust. Carve out a time for the family to group, either at dinner or before bed. Have all family members take five minutes to gather dishes or laundry.
Stick with the schedule. Once it is habit, explain how high school students can apply daily chores to school life, such as emptying trash from a book bag and reading over notes nightly.
Organize a calendar
Design a family calendar and designate a time to cover upcoming events. Ask every family member to add to the calendar. Sometimes it helps to assign each family member an ink color.
Summer provides time for discussions that the busy school year often can't afford. Don't create a formal presentation, but read from the calendar who has swimming or music practice—where and when. Review the schedule by simply saying, "Jon, where are your two activities? When?" Model this, so your teens later apply such a dialogue to their lives: "I have baseball practice, so I need to pack practice clothes and an after-school snack."
Then continue this routine every day until it becomes habit. Find the time that works best for the family, and carry the practice into the school year. Breakfast works for some, while covering the following day at dinnertime or bedtime works for other families.
Organize your space
Using the summer to establish routines and patterns sets examples for teenagers that they can apply to their lives, but you should also take a more direct approach as well. Parents should model behavior and explain their processes.
For example, ask your teen to help you clean the hall closet or kitchen cabinet. Walk through a process together. (The specific process is not the important aspect; making a process is.) Create piles for trash, donate, and keep. Discuss the criteria for donated gloves versus gloves to keep. Explain your reasoning behind the limit of scarves per person. Follow through on the entire project. Reassemble the newly organized space and take the donation bag to a charity store right away—do not let the bag sit around for weeks.
Invest time with your high school students and let them feel the feeling of accomplishment that accompanies a neatly polished area. Explain that similar processes work with class binders: which papers need to be tossed, and which need to be filed?
As always, keep communication open
Some eye rolling is expected from teenagers when you first roll out the new plans. Teenagers have ambiguous feelings about organizing themselves. They may want help but feel as if they should be self-sufficient.
Just make topics surrounding organization a casual and continual conversation. Praise your teens when they brag about that bookshelf or sock drawer they organized.
Being organized leads to confidence. Give your teens this confidence by guiding them in building organizational skills during the summer.
Lauralee Moss, M.A., teaches high school language arts and standardized testing review courses. She lives in Illinois with her husband and two children.