What Kids Need: Planning Skills

We often do this for our kids, but do you teach your young person how to plan?  In a national survey, nearly half of all the kids surveyed said they need help planning.  One approach that has been quite successful is that of a family meeting.  Family meetings are a great place to plan family activities but also to discuss each child’s week and help them to see the days when things won’t work very well, and an adjustment can be made in advance.  During family meetings, you can take time to prioritize the focus for the week and also see how transportation and other collective events work together. By taking the time to place events on a calendar, you help your child to see how to do this for themselves.  Many schools now provide kids with a day planner; however, as a former school administrator of many years, I can testify that after about the first month or so, kids have no idea what happened to the planner.

Have your kids plan some family events by helping them to place it on their calendar and then add steps each day leading up to their week.  It allows kids to set priorities in their life by seeing that they may have to give up something they want to do in favor of something that takes a higher priority.  Learning to plan and use time effectively is a huge problem for so many kids.  Once in a while, you get that child that seems to do that on their own, but it is by far the exception rather than the rule.  Sit down with your child and help them to place key assignments from class, along with their activities that occur regularly.  Place family events, like the family meeting on their calendar and birthdays.  Then help them to sit down once a week and plan their week.  I am a proponent of planning once a week and then adjusting as needed.  Put the big stuff on your calendar first and then add the little things that matter less as time allows.  It is important to teach that once the big stuff is scheduled, they should be planned around.  Teaching planning skills teaches kids how to sacrifice and hold what is essential.

I think it is also essential to give yourself some room when scheduling.  For many years I would plan my day far too tight, not allowing for anything to interrupt my schedule.  I frequently found myself falling short of what I had expected.  It took quite a while to get used to giving myself some time.  I need to mention that helping kids to get used to planning long term assignments is also an important skill. Assisting the kids to schedule an assignment as soon as it is given and then writing smaller steps leading up to the due date will serve them all their life.  Sometimes we wonder how we learned this stuff, as it doesn’t seem anyone taught us to do this.  Still, take time to sit with your child and help them to plan formally.  Establish some time, maybe on a Sunday afternoon, when the entire family can sit down and schedule the week together.  It will not only make the week much smoother, but it will also increase the resilience of the family and help with communication.

I encourage you as a parent to sit and work on planning skills with your young people; you will be giving them life-long skills that will separate them from many others in their life.

Yours for Better Parenting,

Rich