Time Management for Teens

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Schoolgirls studying on the lap top outside

Time management isn’t just for adults at work. The first few months of a new school year see many parents struggling to support their preteens and teens as they balance homework and school projects with clubs, sports, music, drama, volunteering, work—and just being a middle or high school kid!

Juggling all of these activities can be overwhelming for teens—and parents—and it’s easy to see why teens can sometimes feel anxious or depressed.

You can help your teen avoid your teen having an emotional breakdown by fostering a strong relationship that encourages open and honest communication. In fact, studies show that having a strong relationship with your teen is one of the biggest positive influences on their behaviors.

Build your relationship by talking with your teen and not at your teen.

teens-and-time-_management-infographicA first step in talking with your teen about their time management is to start by asking permission. A normal part of development for your teen is their struggle for control. When teens are given the opportunity to say “yes” before you start talking, they automatically pay more attention to what you are saying. Start the conversation with something like this:

You have a lot on your plate right now. I would like to talk with you about making a plan to get everything done and still have time for yourself. When would be a good time for us to talk today?

This approach makes them feel respected and they will more open to having a productive discussion about time management with you. Be sure that when the time comes to talk with your teen you are not distracted by everything else you have going on, like other children or your phone.

During your discussion, keep your goal top-of-mind: that your teen is able to manage their commitments successfully and with a positive attitude. Your primary role is to support them in achieving this goal by first using open-ended statements and questions to learn more about their feelings and pressures, and then talking them through what they think they can realistically do.

Really listen to what they are sharing and offer your suggestions last:

  • You have a lot going on right now keeping up your grades, playing basketball, being involved in chess club and getting your volunteer hours in this semester.” Wait for your teen to respond to this statement. (A few seconds of silence is normal. Teens need time to process what you just said).
  • Then ask open-ended questions to help them create a plan to manage their time. “What are some things you are thinking about doing to make sure you get everything done and you don’t feel overwhelmed?
  • Listen to their response, then offer some solutions of your own: “What do you think about getting a planner and writing in your assignment due dates and activities?”
  • End with: “Out of everything we talked about, what do you think would work for you?
  • At the end of the week, check back in with them in a non-confrontational tone. “Remember when we talked about managing your commitments? How is that going?” Give them the opportunity to share their experiences with you. If they are struggling, ask something like: “What do you need to help you stay on track?

Staying intentional in how we talk with our teens can make a big difference in our relationships—and ultimately their success and well-being. Additional strategies can be found in the infographic and in Teen Speak, a how-to guide for real talks with teens.

Real Life—Putting New Strategies into Practice

“As I was reading Teen Speak, I realized I wasn’t letting my son and daughter feel like I was truly listening. That was a huge ah-ha! moment. When they would vent to me about the events in a game, something that happened at school or even an issue that would come up at home, I was quick to counter their views. I found they continued to talk a lot more when I listened and asked them questions first, than when I would immediately offer my own view on the subject.”  – Molly V.

Jennifer Salerno is founder and CEO of Possibilities for Change and author of Teen Speak.

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