Help Your Teens Get Organized

Just because teenagers look more like adults, doesn’t necessarily mean that they think or function like adults!

A new Web site by the Partnership for a Drug Free America ( explains how the human brain takes 25 years to fully develop, with the prefrontal cortex, responsible for complex judgment and decision-making, maturing last. Ironically, at a time when a teen’s need for guidance and oversight is at its highest, parents’ confidence in their ability to influence and guide their teens begins to wane. But perseverance and a little structure can pay dividends. Work with them now to help them learn to get and stay organized and follow routines.

Sarah on “The Communication Center”

Teens are highly social, but at home, they’re more likely to go mute and expect family members to be able to read their minds. A family communication center is an excellent non-verbal tool that will help keep everyone in the loop on the most important things like special events and scheduling. To make a successful family communication center, you’ll need to compile a few simple things.

First, make a family appointment book or hang a wall calendar or whiteboard. It can be simple but should include enough spaces to fill in social, work, and other appointments for the entire family. Next, use three folders for each individual child kept in a central place like the kitchen, labeled “In, Out, & Read.” This way you can keep track of all school newsletters, permission slips and other school correspondence. Also, put in place a family note taking system.

Alicia on “The Study Center”

Today’s teens are facing tougher academics and more rigorous schedules than ever, especially with the college entrance qualifications getting more selective. Have a desk area for them with adequate lighting to promote proper focus. Be sure the computer is in a visible area to keep track of Internet usage (like the kitchen). As much as we would like to trust that our children are being responsible online, proactive monitoring is the best tactic for keeping teens safe on the Web. In addition, help them make a file system to keep ongoing projects, old homework, and important papers like college admissions help guides or prospective university information. Keep it simple and this will set them on the right track once they get to college.

Here are three additional ways to help your teenager get Buttoned Up.

#1. Student Planner
A planner will teach your student how to set priorities and decide what’s most important. Teach them the 80/20 Rule, and work with them every afternoon or at the beginning of each week to identify the most important 20 percent of tasks on their list. Assess what kind of student they are and figure out what kind of priority system works best. Some teens only need a weekly planner, while others need a daily reminder supplement, like a homework pad, as well as a planner. Most teen students need both.

#2. College Prep
This starts really early these days as colleges are more and more competitive. Be sure your teens are active in any clubs, sports, or associations that interest them. It’s also very important to be active in the community. Yes, this is great for the admissions, but more importantly it’s helpful to the greater good of your region. Check out your local paper for service events, or get creative. For example, if your children love animals, have them walk dogs at the animal shelter or the Leader Dog for the Blind campaign. If the type of service contains something they are passionate about, they will be more apt to stick with the charity throughout high school and life.

#3. Emergency Prep
Most auto accidents are caused by drivers between the ages of 16 and 25. If your teen has a car, it absolutely, positively should be equipped with a kit that tells your young driver what information to collect in the event of an accident. You will also want a first aid kit in the car for those just-in-case moments. Educational tools are important too so sign them up for an AAA or insurance company roadside help class (how to change a tire, and what to do in other emergencies while in the car, like if you spot a tornado, or come across flood waters). You might think your teens are smart enough to have common sense, but in a panic, they may not be thinking clearly. The more prepared they are the better they will be able to handle the situation and the more assured you’ll be.