Magazine article Work & Family Life

Helping Young Children to Get-And Stay-Organized

Magazine article Work & Family Life

Helping Young Children to Get-And Stay-Organized

Article excerpt

It's important for children to be organized and to know how to organize themselves," says child psychiatrist Gene Beresin, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School. "Don't just think toys, clothes and school work. It's more basic than that," he says. "Children who are organized have an easier time managing life skills and feeling good about themselves. It's that simple."

Parents see the truth of this as kids progress through school, but the building blocks of being organized at school start long before a child reaches kindergarten. Luckily, most of us give our children a good start at being organized without realizing it. For example, we build in routines such as an afternoon nap and evening bath, followed by a story and bedtime. Routines and rituals provide children with an internal sense of organization that helps them feel safe and secure.

Storting earlier is better

"If you want your child to be organized, the earlier you start, the better," says child psychologist Anthony E. Wolf, author of The secret of Parenting (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). You are likely to be more successful when your child sees how something will work for him/her.

For example, if you have to search every night for a teddy bear, Wolf suggests saying to your child: "How about, when you wake up in the morning, you say goodbye to Teddy for the day and put him in a special Teddy place. That way, he'll be waiting for you at bedtime." Or, Dr. Beresin might say to another child: "I see what a hard time you have in the morning. If we put your clothes out at night, I think your life might be more fun in the morning." This helps children see the value in being organized.

'Do I have what I came with?'

Some children need more help than others. With young kids, put up a photo of a backpack and the words, "Backpack goes here," with an arrow. As you put systems into place-especially for a child who is temperamentally disinclined toward organization or has trouble concentrating-break tasks into a few doable pieces so he or she can feel some success. …

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