by Amanda LeBlanc
Our kids are back in school, and fall is in full swing! It’s a fresh start, a new beginning. They feel a sense of excitement and we want to give them the best opportunity for success. There are simple things we can do, but unfortunately, many parents are not doing them.
I grew up with ADD, not ADHD. I was a daydreamer. I had a hard time staying focused. I wasn’t diagnosed until college. Why? There are a few reasons. First, I grew up in a home that, unbeknownst to my parents or myself, was set up with the right tools to help me stay focused. Second, I attended a small, all-girl private school that was also a great setting for staying focused, and third, I had been taught time management skills by the age of 13, and those skills were re-enforced constantly. It wasn’t until I left home and was put in a large university, where all of the environmental settings that I had been accustomed to were stripped from me, that all I had left was my time management skills. In a state of overwhelming stress, I abandoned even time management and my grades dropped sharply.
Over Christmas break, I met a psychologist who would change my life. After discussing with her my past successes and describing my current decline, she knew immediately what the problem was. Together we figured out how key my environment as a child was to my success. I knew I could find a way to reset my life so that I could succeed. During that time, I began reading about organization and time management. There was not one book that could give me the perfect solution, but I was able to pull key facts that I knew had worked for me in the past and options I felt would work for me as an adult. After implementing a new system to focus my attention, my grades went from a 2.3 to a 3.5.
Key environmental set-up factors:
First off, it is critical for kids to have an adequate desk. The desk should have storage for all of the items that children will need and everything should be at their fingertips. If children get up to look for something to complete a task, it is likely they will get distracted and lose focus.
Second, the placement of the desk is just as important. A desk needs to be placed in a space that is clutter free and simple. It is important that the child does not have visual or auditory distractions. There should never be a TV on while a child is studying. I have heard so many kids and parents say that their child studies better with the TV on. That is simply not true. However, I am not opposed to classical music playing softly. If your children are going to absorb the material they are studying, they need to have minimal noise. Studies suggest that with the TV on, children can mix up what they are hearing with what they read. The same goes for kids doing homework in an open part of the house like the kitchen. There is typically too much noise going on around the house for kids to study at the dining room table.
Time management factors:
Too much free time and not enough free time can be detrimental to a child’s success. This is a good place for parents to be involved. If a child has too much free time and doesn’t get the experience and practice of having to manage their time, they will have a tendency to procrastinate and waste time. This can lead to poor schoolwork. The same goes for the many parents I see who overbook a child’s schedule. I know children who have hours of after-school activities and very little time to study. This too leads to poor schoolwork. Children need a good balance of structure and free time. Whether your child has sports, dance, piano or chores, they need to learn to balance their time. I was introduced to a planner and taught how to manage my time at 13. I was also introduced to working and even greater management of time at age 15. The balance of the two taught me to be mindful of my time. It taught me to use my time wisely.
This year, get not only yourself organized, but also set your kids up for success. Teaching them the valuable skill of time management and providing them with a space set up for success will give them the tools needed to achieve their dreams.