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Organizing With Big Kids

When your child reaches “middle age” in terms of their childhood, they’re in a transitional period between elementary school and high school that can be particularly challenging. It’s an exciting time of growth and change when they may have new sports, clubs and other interests to explore in addition to an increase in academic expectations. They may be “big kid,” but that doesn’t mean staying organized gets any easier. They need systems in place to help them balance it all.

Organizational Skills Need Time to Develop

Perhaps the hardest part of the big kid years is just how fast they need to adjust to their broadening world. Suddenly, they’ve got papers, projects, and activities to keep track of, and keeping their toys in order when they were small didn’t quite prepare them for this next level of chaos. In order to thrive in this new landscape, they’re going to need task, time, and life management skills…and that’s a whole new ballgame!

Why the Big Kid Years Take Chaos to a New Level

  • Big kids are growing and learning so much so fast. A lot of what they are learning to organize is beyond stuff. It's task management like homework or a project. It's time management like afterschool activities. And it's life management like getting to bed on time and thinking about how decisions will affect their future.

  • They are faced with individual challenges and have their own interests and goals.

  • They can also struggle with detaching from the little kid stuff they used to love.

All of this can make the thought of organizing with a big kid seem overwhelming. But it doesn't have to be. When I think of organizing for and with big kids, I often think of training an athlete. An athlete is not born, they are trained. And before they will ever listen to their coach, the coach has got to get them to buy in. Do they know what to do the very first time they try? No. Do they need a lot of practice and coaching? Yes. And the same goes for adults, right?

How Adults Can Help

If you want you big kid to be organized at home, get them involved in the decision-making so they are invested in their own success.

  1. Be their coach.

  2. Take it slow.

  3. Be patient.

  4. Hold back the criticism.

  5. Get their buy-in.

  6. Let them learn from their mistakes.

Here's the Strategy for Organizing With Big Kids

Create healthy boundaries. Your child may want to sign up for every activity and attend every birthday party and be in every afterschool sport, but that is not a balanced life. So, it's your job as the caregiver to create a healthy boundary which may mean limiting their after-school commitments or keeping one or two days a week sacred for family and relaxation. Or you may have a child who wants to collect every action figure or every trading card. This is also where you could place a loving limit.

Teach inch by inch. It may feel like your big kid is big enough to understand and just “get it done,” but sometimes important life skills are best learned in increments. If you try to move too quickly to the finish line, they could shut down and reject all semblance of order. Instead, work with them to break down tasks into bite-size chunks so they are rewarded with a feeling of accomplishment as each one is completed. Celebrate every small victory, and don’t expect too many in one day!

Make them part of the process. Big kids typically have a strong desire to be independent, even though they are not quite there yet. So, one of the most empowering things you can do is to make them part of the process. Talk through organizational issues with them and ask them how they might solve them. Then, create a process together. It may be a physical schedule that helps them keep track of homework due dates, afterschool activities, and responsibilities at home. It could be a screen time contract your write up together and sign. It could be a daily checklist that helps them get homework completed or clothes laid out for the next day. Just remember, there is not “best” system except the system that works for them. And, in this case, they may be the best person to help figure that out. It may take a lot of practice, and not everything will work, but they’ll be learning every step of the way.

When critical organizational skills are learned as a big kid, it can make things so much easier to manage when they reach high school and beyond. But I recognize that it’s a tough stage for parents. I encourage you to keep trying, with as much patience as you can muster. When it finally “clicks” for them, you’ll be amazed at the positive impact it has on every aspect of their lives.

If you need additional tips on how to organize with big kids, Contact Us. We can work with you to create organized systems for kids (or adults) of any age!

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