For many parents, the start of the school year marks the beginning of the frantic, “I forgot!” phone calls or texts from their tweens. The cries of “Mom, I forgot my math homework at home” or “Dad, I forgot I was supposed to have you sign something” seem never to stop! It’s as though middle schoolers are unable to remember anything they are supposed to do or bring to school. And it makes sense.
The transition from elementary school to middle school can be difficult for a tween. In elementary school, children are used to managing the materials, expectations, and due dates from just one teacher. However, once a child moves to middle school, they are hurriedly moving from class to class, quickly adjusting to the expectations of five or six teachers, and managing multiple due dates. If that weren’t enough, the number of books and materials they need to take home and bring back increases. Your tween’s school responsibilities have suddenly doubled! Unfortunately, the new demands placed on your tween’s ability to organize might exceed what they are currently capable of doing. The great news, however, is that organization is a skill that you can help teach your child! Here a few suggestions that might help your tween quickly adapt to their new challenge.
Establish helpful habits so they have to think less.
A habit is simply a pattern of behavior that becomes automatic to us. It’s something that we often do not realize we are doing. If an organizational task becomes habitual for your child, then there is less room for error. For example, if your child gets into the routine of checking the board for assignments and writing them down, it will become less likely that they will miss something.
Help your child create an organization system that fits them.
It’s important to remember that everyone’s organizational style is different. What might work for you may not work for your tween. Encourage your child to brainstorm ideas of what organization looks like for them. Do they need a system that is detailed, or color-coded, or technological, etc.? There are many options available that you and your tween could explore. For example, some tweens might prefer to use apps to manage their calendar, assignments, and materials lists, while others might prefer to use a planner to write things down.
Create designated spots that will reduce forgetfulness.
Between hormones, new social groups, changes to the school routine, more homework, etc., tweens have a lot going on! It’s easy for them to forget or lose things. To help them, work together to create places for specific items. For example, your child could place papers that need to be signed on the kitchen counter.
Declutter once a week.
It’s easy to misplace or forget items that are shoved deep inside a messy backpack. If you have your tween get into the habit of cleaning out their backpack and folders once a week, it will be easier for them to stay organized during the school year.
Transitioning to middle school can be difficult. By helping your child develop their organizational skills, it could make the process a lot less daunting.