As a mother of two teenage boys I am always stressed out when school starts. Juggling classes, homework and extracurricular activities is also stressful for them. I struggle with trying to keep my kids organized (I can be a bit controlling), and allowing them to figure it out for themselves (which they will have to do eventually). In short – I want to give them the tools to become productive adults who can manage their own lives.
My kids are opposites: one is naturally organized and keeps a (dare I say) beautiful agenda. The other is a sweet, laid back kid who thinks “everything will work out in the end – I will get to it eventually.” I am envious of his “live in the moment” attitude, but it also drives me crazy! Both my kids are smart. Both have the ability to do well. One is less stressed out. Guess which one!
This got me thinking… What can we, as parents, do to help reduce our kid’s stress level? Starting off the school year right can set the tone for the rest of the year. Middle School and High School kids need to keep track of homework, projects, after school activities, sports practices and games and maybe even a job!
The most important tool students can use is an agenda. Many schools give one to each student at the beginning of the year, or you can find one at any school supply store or online. Encourage them to use this agenda daily. They should write down assignments and homework each day, along with the due date. Test dates should also be included, as well as dates and times for studying. This will be especially important if the student is involved in after school activities which may limit available study times.
Having the right supplies is a must. A binder, folder, notebook and index tabs are at the top of the list. These should be color coded for each class by subject. Don’t combine binders and folders. Keep all the school work from each subject inside its own folder. This way your student will easily be able to access the paper or assignment they need without searching through everything. A “homework” folder is a good idea. By using a “homework” folder, your student won’t have to lug home unnecessary items. It saves space in the backpack and stress on their back.
Explain the importance of class time participation. Being focused in class, both listening to the teacher and taking notes, has several advantages. First, it allows the student to receive and retain more information. Second, they will always know due dates for homework, projects and tests. Third, it prevents any after class or after school meeting they may need to have with the teacher if they missed something during class.
Whenever possible, homework should be done right after school. The student should have a quiet area with adequate lighting and few interruptions or distractions. No television or cell phones should be used during this time. This will significantly increase productivity, giving the student more time for activities they enjoy. After checking their agenda, students should begin doing homework due the next day, starting with the most difficult assignment. Then they can work on future assignments. After each assignment is completed it should be marked as such in the agenda. This is important, as it gives the student a sense of accomplishment. After homework is finished everything, should immediately be placed back in the right folder.
As parents we need to help our kids set goals, make a plan to accomplish those goals, and then follow through to reach those goals. Helping your student learn good organization and study skills will help them manage their time and efforts, reduce stress and give them skills that will last a lifetime.