Q&A: Helping a messy, disorganized teenWritten by Focus on the Family Canada
What's inside this article
Question: My adolescent son seems so disorganized all the time. He’s always running late for school, often forgets to bring home what he needs for homework, and his room is unbelievably messy. I don’t want to always be nagging him, and nothing I say seems to help anyway. What should I do?
When dealing with teens it’s important to pick a few issues that are most meaningful in terms of character growth and maturation, and to focus on those. "Choose your battles," so to speak.
Choose your battles
Most teens have so much going on in their lives (dating and friend relationships, peer anxiety, social media pressures, weight and beauty concerns, academic studies, extracurricular activities) that being organized just isn’t a priority. And in fact, perhaps it is just one more thing to manage on your son’s overwhelming to-do list. If this is the case, you can choose to make it a non-issue: you can decide to let him figure this out on his own, with natural life consequences slowly teaching him life lessons.
How to teach life lessons
That being said however, if your teen is genuinely suffering because of his lack of organization (missed schoolwork deadlines, regularly late for class or work) do feel free to gently offer some time management tips and strategies, create home routines that make life a little easier, share online apps or calendars to stay on top of school work and activities, or ask how you can be of help. It may also be wise to learn about the signs of ADHD in adolescents, particularly "inattentive type" ADHD, and consider whether that could be at play here.
Do more listening than talking
It’s most important during the teen years to maintain a connection with your teen. This means you should be doing more listening than talking, and certainly as little "nagging" as possible. If you have a solid relationship, he will come to you for help with the bigger stuff. Make sure your teen knows you are not the enemy, but that you are on his side cheering him on!
If the messy room continues to cause you distress, offer grace by closing your mouth and closing the door to your teen’s bedroom!
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