4-H goes about teaching youth development via the four H’s – Head, Heart, Hands and Health.
Under the Head category falls skills such as resiliency, planning and organizing, critical thinking, problem solving and decision making. Let’s take a closer look at planning and organizing. How can you teach this life skill at home?
Organization means different things to different people. Getting organized can mean a household in which everyone pitches in to complete chores; it can mean finding time for complex science fair projects; or it can refer to juggling complex family schedules. Teaching kids the skills to plan future events, manage homework and activities, and be part of the family team that keeps the household running smoothly is a great parenting gift that serves children well into high school and beyond.
Here are some organizing ideas from the Search Institute website:
• Organizational skills can be taught. That’s why schools invest in planners for students. Bring your children into the family planning and decision-making process for vacations and celebrations, schedules for family computer use, neighborhood parties, and sports practice and competitions.
• Resist the urge to buy expensive products that will help you organize. Instead, start by taking a quick inventory of your home to see if there are three things you can do to improve your family’s organization. Then do it!
• Use simple storage methods, including baskets or tubs with large openings, for putting away children’s toys, books and other supplies. Involve children in selecting the colored bins, baskets or shelves for more buy-in to the idea of getting organized.
• Start using a family calendar to write down everybody’s commitments so that the whole family can keep track of who is going where and when. A family whiteboard or Google calendar can also be a useful method of keeping track of commitments.
• If your child hasn’t started using a planner, now is the time to learn how. Track homework and big projects that have long-term deadlines. Talk about how to break up big projects into small pieces so that deadlines are not melodramatic events. Check planners together every night and prepare for the next day.
• As your family organizes its commitments, avoid connecting “getting organized” with getting rid of stuff. While it’s a good strategy for most adults, young people may feel nervous and threatened if they think they have to give up items important to them or even part of their identity.
• Expect your teens to play an active role in keeping your family organized, from doing their chores to giving you advance notice when they need your help, money or permission to participate in an activity, and so on. If your teens aren’t helping out through good communication, you may want to stop bailing them out at some point and let them deal with the consequences.
Take on a small bits of organizing at a time to make it less overwhelming. Devote some effort up front to get a calendar system set up for yourself first and then help your child learn to keep track of what’s coming up next week and next month. It’s a terrific skill to cultivate at any age.
Heather Gordon is an extension agent, 4-H Youth Development, Jackson County Center, N. C. Cooperative Extension.