How to Help Your High School Student Get Organized

Father helping son with schoolwork
Caiaimage/Tom Merton/Getty

By the time your child reaches high school, you may think it's too late to instill some basic organizational skills. It's not! It's more important than ever now especially if your child plans to attend college. Not to mention that being organized is an important work skill. Use these tips to help your child get organized for high school.

Sit and Plan Their Week With Them

Gone are the days when your child comes home yelling "Guess what happened to me, Mom!" More likely, they'll walk in the door and head straight to their room without saying much. If you're like most parents of high school students (especially boys), you probably find out about things either very last-minute or after the fact.

A weekly meeting can get you in the loop without smothering your child. Sunday evenings are a great family meeting time for you to go over things like:

Everyone should bring their planners or calendars. If they don't own one, be sure to get them one. Work your way through each day asking what everyone has scheduled for work, practices, games, and before and after-school activities. Next, determine transportation needs. Does your child have a ride to each event on their calendar or will you need to provide transportation on one or more days?

The review school-related things. Are any projects due or big tests scheduled? Does your child have all the necessary tools or supplies?

Lastly, cover their social calendar. Do they want to go to the Friday night football game, go to the movies with friends or have a birthday party to attend? If so, discuss the needs for each event like transportation, does your child need anything like a special outfit washed or dry cleaned, or a gift. Then fit the preparation items into your calendar. 

While these weekly meetings will be important to you as you juggle both work and family responsibilities, their true value is teaching your child to think and plan ahead. That's a skill that will come in handy for years to come.

Clean Out Your Bags Together

Your child lives out of their backpack all week, just like you do your purse. At the end of your weekly meeting take time to empty out both of your bags together. By doing so you're leading by example that's it good to start the week off with a fresh start.

Just like your purse has many compartments kids backpacks have them, too. Make it a point to clean out every little pocket. Dirty tissues and gum wrappers have a knack for getting stuck in small spaces.

Anticipate They Will Procrastinate

Many teenagers seem predisposed to procrastination. While this will drive some of you Type A parents crazy but resist the urge to micromanage. Here are some ways to encourage your child to stop procrastinating.

Don't try to have a rational conversation about procrastination with your child when they are in the middle of getting something done at the last minute. Tempers will flare and nothing productive will result.

Instead, discuss the situation at a later time. Ask your child to explain the circumstances that led to the last minute crunch. Looking back, is there anything they would have done differently? With that action plan, help them figure out how can they apply it to their next project or test so they'll avoid procrastinating again.

Many children never really learn how to study and it catches up with them in high school. Many schools and tutoring clubs offer study skills classes designed to teach your child how to study efficiently and effectively. Consider enrolling your child in one of these courses. It's an investment with long-term dividends.

Establish Expectations and Consequences

By high school, you should have a clear understanding of your child's capabilities. Clearly tell your child what you expect in terms of grades and test scores based on these capabilities. Some parents even put them in a written academic contract between them and the student.

Whether you communicate your expectations verbally or in writing, you should also include the consequences if expectations are not met. Decide with your children what the consequences will be like eliminating extracurricular activities, no weekend social events, or loss of phone or gaming privileges.

When it comes to time management and organization, one of the best lessons you can teach your child is personal responsibility and the understanding that there are consequences for every decision. 

Don't Bail Your Child Out

It's 9 p.m. and your child comes running into your room holding a dirty uniform they need for tomorrow's big game. What do you do? If these situations rarely happen, you can wash it. But if they are a common occurrence, resist bailing out your kid.

If you do bail them out, you are reinforcing your child's disorganized habits. You are also sending the message that it doesn't matter if you are organized or not; it all works out in the end. You won't be there in college, and you certainly won't be there when they get their first post-college job. 

That doesn't mean you need to be stern about this. Express sympathy for the predicament and show interest in your child's ideas for solving the problem. You may find that they can get out of the jam without your help. That's a great way to build confidence and life skills.

Introduce them to Organizational Tools

They have a planner but what other organizational needs do they have? Having a different color folder for each subject can help them grab the right paperwork quickly. Sticky notes for quick messages, sticky tabs to mark important reference material in a book, or sticky dots to help prioritize their workload.

If they need to store notes for a long amount of time introduce them to three-ring binders, their own three-hole puncher, and tabs. Another option is finding an accordion file to organize loose papers.

Also, get them their own timer, watch, or show them how to use the timer on their phone. We know the importance of taking breaks during our work day and the same can be taught to your teenager. Show them how a quick 15-minute break may help them overcome writer's block or help solve that hard math problem.

You could also teach them how to use highlighters or colored pens for note-taking. Not only is this great for finding information quickly, but adding a bit of creativity to learning is fun! If you want to get more creative to give them their own whiteboard. You probably use one (or two) to keep track of lists so why not give them one to do the same thing!

Was this page helpful?