Does your teen snooze the alarm and struggle to get out of bed in the morning? Do they return home from school mentally exhausted and physically edgy? Go straight to their room and shut down? Then, procrastinate on their homework and are up late into the night rushing to get things finished?
For many teens, they lack a general routine and structure in their lives. They may want this and have the best of intentions, but simply lack the daily habits and structure to make those intentions a reality. As this continues, they then lose confidence in their ability to make positive changes, leading to decreased motivation.
What happens when teens don’t have a routine? Lack of routine and structure can lead to feelings of anxiety and stress. When they have free time, they procrastinate or avoid doing what they know they should or need to do. Their sleeping and eating habits are affected. They have more time to think leading to negative self-talk. Teens don’t know what to do with the extra time so this could lead to self-destructive behavior patterns.
What are the benefits of routine and structure? When teens know what to expect, it decreases their anxiety and stress. They know when projects are due or test dates are approaching and can allocate time appropriately to prepare. Teens make better decisions with their free time which gives them more time for family or friends. They are actually able to relax, without constantly thinking about what they need to do but are avoiding. And one of the biggest benefits to parents, less pushback because your teen knows what to expect. They aren’t wasting as much time thinking or arguing about what needs to be done. They are enjoying themselves with activities that align with their interests and values.
How can you help your teen create routine and structure in their lives?
1. Model good time management habits: If you’re always running late or missing deadlines, your teen will follow suit. Be aware that when you’re avoiding doing something by playing on your phone, they might see this as acceptable behaviors. Kids tend to model the behaviors and habits that they are shown. Make sure you’re doing what you’re asking of them.
2. Figure out their style: Just because you’re an early bird or night owl, doesn’t mean they are. Help them to evaluate the times of day that they feel most productive. Maybe reflect back on the past or do a trial week to test their productivity. Offer them tools, not advice on how they “should” do it. These are lifelong skills that will help them to move forward with jobs or college and they need to find what truly works for them.
3. Avoid nagging: When you are always on their case about something, it reduces their responsibility. We all know teens are resistant to control. They have a deep need to feel independence and autonomy. You don’t want them to become dependent on you but also you don’t want them to fail. Finding the line between the 2 can be difficult. Remember, don’t be a lawnmower parent (leading the path to prevent them from struggling or failing) or a helicopter parent (hovering over them). Fight the motherly urge to continuously remind them!
4. Trust them: Don’t expect the worst, assume the best. Have faith in their ability to follow through. Although some may have a need to “prove you wrong”, others need you to feel confident in them. Bringing up past examples can often be discouraging to them and rather they need to see the ability to make new patterns.
5. Explore the WHY: Teens want to know why they are doing something. What is the reason they are doing chores or homework? Help them to see how this might make them feel or even how they will feel if they don’t do it. How can this skill benefit them later in life? Don’t just say, “because I said so” as this isn’t teaching them the purpose.
6. Encourage motivating factors: Help your teen to think about how they would or could spend the extra time gained by being more organized and on task. Often, looking forward to doing something we want to do is a natural motivator to getting done what we need to do!
7. Apps, Planners, Calendars: Encourage your teen to find what works for them. There are plenty of apps out there that help to organize our lives. Plug everything all in one place: school, homework, sports, extracurricular activities, family obligations, chores, appointments. Teach them to put everything in as soon as they learn about them and schedule reminders. Sit down once a week with them to review and prepare the week.