by Bec Cavalôt

4 tips to help your teenager get more organised

Missed homework deadlines, a cluttered backpack, chaotic workspace and constant reminders about sports training…

Being the parent of a disorganised teenager can be frustrating and overwhelming – for you and for them. If you’re tired of shouldering your son’s (very messy) mental load, here are a few ways to help him get more organised.

1. Address the issue without judgement

My son started high school this year. I can’t tell you how many times, ‘Why can’t you be more organised?’ has almost escaped my lips. But I’ve kept quiet (mostly). Because I know he’s struggling. And that criticism will lead to shame, defensiveness, and shutdown – not the motivation and proactive solutions he needs and I crave.

Instead of implying your disorganised son should be doing better, try and highlight the benefits of improving – less stress and more time to focus on the things he loves. Swap ‘I can’t believe how messy you are,’ for, ‘You seem to have a lot on your plate. Let’s figure out how to help you get organised so you have more time to play basketball and hang out with your mates.’                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

2. Create an organised workspace

It’s likely that you’ve already tried colour-coded folders, desk tidies and perhaps even an app or two. And nothing has worked. That’s because many kids struggling with organisation need to simplify – not add in more stuff.

Help your son create a quiet, distraction-free zone where everything has its place. A set study space in his bedroom gives your son privacy and independence, and means he can leave his space set up – one less thing to do each time he sits down to tackle his homework. Put Pinterest aside and choose practical over pretty. Everything he needs (books, stationery, laptop, charger) should be within arm’s reach. Everything he doesn’t (mobile phone), should be out of reach – and preferably out of the room.

3. Teach time management skills

Lack of organisation and the inability to focus not only affect your son academically but also socially and emotionally, increasing stress and overwhelm in all areas of his life. Good time management will help him build confidence and independence, reduce anxiety and free up free time.

  • Get tasks out of his head and onto paper. Handwriting a schedule helps it stick. Encourage your son to use a physical planner or diary to record class times, homework, study times, due dates, extra-curricular activities, and social events – everything that takes up his time and attention. Remind him to break bigger projects and tasks into chunks – 15-minute blocks work for my son – and schedule each part in his planner.
  • Help your teen prioritise. Kids have busy lives. Sometimes there will be conflicts. Teach your son to prioritise based on his health and wellbeing, as well as his values, passions and commitments. Then, unless he’s harming himself or others, allow him to make choices. Missing out is part of life but taking control will reduce your son’s FOMO and help him avoid overload.
  • Model good time management. If you struggle with the juggle, fall prey to procrastination or you’re always running late, look at where you could streamline and simplify. Your son may not show it, but he’s taking it all in. So model the behaviour changes you want to see in him.

4. Stay positive and keep it in perspective

Sometimes, despite all the colour-coded folders, tidy desks, planners and life lessons, your son will procrastinate, make a mess, make questionable choices, miscalculate and break commitments. It’s important to let him learn through natural consequences. But it’s also important to avoid saying, ‘I told you so’, even if you did tell him. Many, many times.

When he messes up, remind him he is smart and capable, reinforce that it’s okay to ask for help, and bring up and celebrate the times he’s succeeded. Your response will keep him motivated because he’ll know that, no matter how chaotic life gets, your love is one thing he can always find his way back to.


 Brought to you by Brighton Grammar School

Bec Cavalôt is a Melbourne-based writer and mum of two boys. You can find her at This article is about


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