12 Tips For Helping Disorganized Children

by Gail Miller

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If your child suffers with poor planning abilities, impulsive behaviour and disorganization, it might often seem like the most difficult job in the world to keep them on the right track. However the following tips might just alleviate some of the problems frustrated parents find with these kids, and help the children themselves cope better with the everyday tasks and routines that are expected of them.

Set times for homework. By setting 'chunks' of time for each assignment (this could be quarter or half hour slots) it enables your child to stay fresh and not get too bored with doing the same piece of work for long periods. Make sure you know which assignments have to be handed in the soonest though and ensure they concentrate on them first.

Help them to get into the habit of writing lists. This could be for homework, household chores or reminders of things to do or stuff to take into school. Buy them a little notebook which will fit easily into the pocket and can be carried around at all times.

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Plan the next day and discuss it with your child before they go to bed. Help them to lay their school uniform out and ensure they have their bag packed ready for school. This eliminates those horrendous mornings when you end up running round like a headless chicken looking for ties, school bus passes, matching pairs of socks etc.

Set a position in their room for homework. Ensure they have a desk or some sort of flat surface where they can do their work, (although this can be anywhere in the house. It doesn't have to be in the bedroom). Keep plenty of pens and pencils available for them to lay their hands on at all times.

Leave notes for your child if he or she is old enough to read. "Bring your hot water bottle down" or "Dirty washing goes in the wash-basket" act as gentle reminders for the child who tends to be messy and constantly puddled.

Help your child catalogue work, magazines etc by providing box files, ring binders or folders. Encourage them to keep their things together neatly for when they come to need them the next time.

Provide plenty of storage in the way of wire baskets, plastic crates or shoe boxes for them to keep their toys or belongings in. Hang plastic hooks behind their bedroom door to hang their clothes on to save them being strewn all over the bedroom floor.

Children like these usually have bedrooms which look like they have been burgled. So to keep the mess at least manageable, every week have a mining session. Usually their drawers (and often the floor) are full of small pieces of rubbish, wrappers, broken Legos, pens without tops, etc. So when this is the case, take the drawer (or crate, box or bag) and tip everything out onto some large sheets of newspaper. Then 'mine' all the useful items and put them in a container. Everything that is left stays on the newspaper. This is then wrapped up and put straight into the trash bin!

Try to keep mealtimes to about the same time every day. This establishes routine and makes children secure in knowing that things will happen the same every day. The same goes for bedtimes. Keep turning in to the same time every night.

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Always use, so therefore encouraging your child (ren) to use, a calendar for your commitments and any family birthdays or anniversaries. Wall planners are good as you can see at a glance what you have planned without having to flick through pages.

Provide support and encouragement in your child's efforts to become more organized by helping them plan checklists and taping them up where they are easily accessible. Give gentle reminders to your child to enter things on his or her calendar and don't nag, but gently persuade them to keep their rooms tidier.

Finally, encourage good habits by letting your children help you with your own chores and always reward for a job well done. If your kids have at least tried to keep things tidy, you should let them know how you have noticed this with a reward and encouragement to do it again the next time.

Gail Miller is author of Wild Child, a Mother, a Son and ADHD.

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