The lives of today’s teens are scheduled and full. Many take part in sports or extracurricular activities in addition to keeping up with their academics and social calendar. While it can feel like their lives are heavily scheduled, having a full calendar means that they learn time-management and organization skills much earlier in life. My teens do a lot of their own organizing, but I do try to implement my own systems that work for me to keep my household and teenagers somewhat on track.
Protein-rich Breakfasts. School starts early for high schoolers and I have found that a protein-rich breakfast keeps them going longer throughout the day. Eggs, protein shakes, smoothies, oatmeal and greek yogurt or something like ham or bacon if you have time to prepare it, really helps to keep them energized for their long days. Even though my own kids have never been big eaters in the morning, we have adapted some of their favourites—like English muffins—to include some protein like peanut butter and banana or an egg on top, to make it a more substantial meal.
Create a central spot for their important items! Keeping school papers and forms in one spot makes things easy to find when the mornings —or evenings—are rushed. I usually try to keep backpacks out of the kids’ bedrooms because once they go in there, things start to get lost. The same goes for lunch kits and containers—they get put back in the same spot every night. We try to keep a central family spot for important papers for school, jobs or other important deadlines.
Homework Space. Keeping the kitchen counter/dining table open for homework every day encourages them to get their books out and work. If you have an open concept space like I do, try to keep noise and TV to a minimum so that the kids have a spot to concentrate. I find that having a specific location that keeps your kids close to the family hub seems to encourage them to work on things. Sending them up to their room to hide and get distracted by electronics means that they are much less productive. Even keeping electronics like phones, in a designated spot while they are working on homework, helps them to stay more focused. Last, keep a supply of school supplies like pens and papers around. It can easily be hidden away in a basket and brought out after school every day.
Create a space for winding down at night. It is a well-known fact that reducing screen time before bed encourages a better sleep. Getting your kids off of their phones and other devices at least an hour before bedtime—while at times a massive challenge—helps them to wind down and rest better. If it was up to them, they would have their phones positioned beside their beds and would be checking them throughout the night. We have always had a phone cutoff time at least an hour or two before their bedtime which means sometimes we aren’t very popular parents—if they didn’t get a chance to check it after sports ended for the night, then it still waits until the morning. Lack of sleep can be a real problem once the school year really gets underway, and I have always found that outlining boundaries so that they are able to wind down distraction-free, can help them sleep better.
The challenge for any family is keeping your household systems running, and not falling off the rails once you create them. I have found that just implementing a few small rules and routines can help ease the busy-ness of your scheduled teens. My own kids seem to thrive on routine and while they have grumbled about some of my systems, overall they truly seem to appreciate the structure.