Lately as teens come through the office for their check-ups, I have heard many tales of very busy kids navigating sports, hard classes, after-school programs and of course college applications are in the mix at the moment as well. With so much on their plates, I often ask them how they do with time management skills. Many just laugh as they feel that they are in survival mode and thus trying to map things out and schedule would just be another stressor, but hopefully through our discussion, they realize some strategies could benefit them. For parents, the earlier you can start helping your child with time management, the better they will be at adapting their skills and creating good routines. As with all things, there is no “one-sized fits all” model, but here are some strategies to assist your teenager with time management:
- Start with a conversation: When offering advice to a child struggling with time management, it’s essential to provide guidance in a supportive and constructive manner. Have an open and non-judgmental conversation with your child about their struggles with time management. Encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings about the challenges they are facing. Instead of micromanaging your teenager’s schedule, offer guidance and support.
- Identify specific issues: Ask your child to pinpoint the areas where they struggle the most, such as procrastination, difficulty in prioritizing tasks, or being easily distracted. Understanding the root causes will help you provide more targeted advice.
- Set achievable goals: Work together to establish achievable and realistic goals related to time management. Start with small, manageable objectives that your child can tackle and build on.
- Create a daily or weekly schedule and use visual aids: Help your child develop a schedule that outlines their daily activities, including school, homework, extracurriculars, and leisure time. Make sure it’s a balanced schedule that allows for breaks and relaxation. Use a calendar, planner, or digital tools to help your child keep track of their commitments, assignments, and deadlines.
- Break tasks into smaller steps and prioritize them:Show your child how to break down larger tasks into smaller, more manageable steps. This approach can make the workload seem less overwhelming. Teach your child to prioritize tasks by importance and deadlines. Encourage them to focus on high-priority assignments first.
- Minimize distractions and time-block: Discuss the importance of a distraction-free study environment and help your child identify and eliminate distractions during study time. This may involve limiting access to distractions like social media, video games, or noisy environments during study time. Encourage your child to allocate specific time blocks for different activities and to stay on track during those blocks. Help them understand the importance of staying on track during these blocks.
- Set rewards and incentives and check in with them regularly: Help your child set goals and rewards for themselves. When they meet their time management goals, allow them to enjoy their chosen incentives, which can motivate them to stay on track.
- Model good time management: Be a positive role model by demonstrating good time management habits in your own life. Children often learn by example, so showing them how you manage your time effectively can be very influential.
- Seek external resources: If your child’s time management struggles are significantly impacting their academic performance, consider seeking external resources, such as checking in with counselors at school, or reaching out to a tutor or academic support services.
Remember that each child is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. It is a gradual process and may take time (a lifetime?!) to fully grasp these concepts. Tailor your advice and support to your child’s individual needs and preferences, and be patient as they develop their time management skills.
Jacqueline Phillips, MD, November, 2023