(this article is for parents/caregivers of school-age children)

So how are you doing with Back-to-School? Is your child (children) having any organizational hiccups? Most of them will whether it’s forgetting their lunches, their instruments on lesson day or homework assignments left in a locker after the carpool is completed. This is all part of learning to think ahead; time management in its elementary stages.

But if you’d like to help your children improve their organizing skills with things, paper and time, may I suggest having “Organizing Dates” with your child? Quite different than dating your mate, here’s an opportunity for parents and caregivers to teach their offspring a basic skill that is slowly being eroded from our American homes for many societal reasons. Nonetheless, it is a critical life skill that we can impart to them.

First, you’ll have to get their “buy- in” on the idea. When the time is right to introduce the importance of organizing to your child and having organizing dates, explain the benefits of being organized:

  1. Emotional Benefits – Let them know that when they are organized they will have a feeling of peace (because they’ve done everything they are supposed to do).
  2. Financial Benefits – This is the perfect time to teach them money management. If they learn how to manage their money at an early age, they will learn how to save it, spend it, donate it, and buy only what they love and want.
  3. Time Benefits – When they learn how to use a calendar and a planner, they will be responsible for their schedule and their priorities. They will realize that getting organized means freedom (because now that they’ve done all their “work/chores/studies” they can dedicate their time to what they want to do!)
  4. Space Benefits – The less clutter in their space, the more free space. The more creative they can be. Now they can relax, have a party, have a place to eat and play with their friends, now it’s easy to clean, move around, not be injured!

Additionally, tell your son or daughter that you wouldn’t be talking about this to them if you weren’t concerned about their growing needs and your true desire to help them and that this is a subject not taught to any length in school so moms and dads should be doing this at home.

After they agree to the importance of organization, I highly recommend you place “organizing dates” on your calendar with each child. Instead of a movie one night, turn on the stereo, make a favorite snack and spend two hours reminiscing and de-cluttering through his/her bedroom. It’s therapeutic for both of you and here’s an opportunity to talk about your child’s goals, priorities and past all while helping them set up an individual space to achieve their future.

Start slowly with your child and keep it fun. Set the timer for a determined time. Before it goes off, give yourselves some time to clean up. Afterward, reward him/her for a job well done and schedule another appointment together. Maybe let your children decide on what organizing projects they might like to tackle. You never know, they might pick their locker or basement. Be open to their input. The hardest part is getting started and the discipline to maintain. If your dates are not going well, stop before bad moods turn what you hoped to be quality time into frustration. Let the idea sit for a while and then try it again a few months later. Eventually, most children come to realize the benefits of this skill.

Lastly, remember that the best example of organization for your child is YOU!