It’s the fall of 2020, and your kids are back in school. The day’s learning may be happening in the classroom, in a small group or at your kitchen table. Wherever it is, the fact remains that many children (and parents) are overwhelmed and anxious during this time of the year. All the juggling of priorities and activities can be exhausting.
What is a parent to do?
While I don’t have all the answers, I can offer some helpful advice. You see, I am a creative entrepreneur and am easily distracted by my next big idea. Following my inspiration is not a bad thing. It’s been one of the keys to my success. But it also leaves me with a long list of incomplete tasks that quickly overwhelms me. Not good for the creative process! So, I developed the habit of using a planner to prioritize my time.
It made all the difference in the world.
I was less anxious, and there was more time in my life for the things that brought me joy. Wouldn’t it be powerful, I thought, if we taught these essential skills to our children so they could reap the benefits of an organized life from a young age? I believe planning can help children manage their ever-growing list of “must-do’s” to make room for their “want-to’s.”
This practice will help them feel less anxious, because much of the anxiety we feel is a result of stress. Less stress means less anxiety. Less anxiety means more joy.
Here are some tips to help your child start using a planner:
1. Get a planner. Start by providing somewhere for your child to write down their plans. A planner, calendar or notebook will do the job. Your child simply needs a place to map out their days, weeks and months.
2. Talk about it. Explain to your child how this will help them. Ask how they’re feeling. Is there anything that they need help with? It’s OK to ask, “What makes you scared or stressed?” Offer to talk about it and help your child develop a plan to work through it. And, just as important, ask, “What makes you happy? Let’s make time for that!” This practice helps kids deal with negative emotions and teaches them to focus on the positive, even in the toughest of times.
3. Make a list. Help your child make a list for the week. Include school assignments and chores. Don’t forget to include some fun things. You’re going to put those in the planner, too. Having something to look forward to is an essential part of the process. Walk your child through this, but resist the urge to do it all yourself. Allowing your child to do this is the only way to reinforce the skill.
4. Prioritize and schedule. With the list in hand, help your child identify the most important tasks and schedule them. Make sure to add those fun things that make your child smile. Have fun with this. Let your child add stickers and positive, affirming quotes to their planners. This practice will help ease their anxieties and increase their overall happiness.
Stephanie Fleming is co-founder of Me & My Big Ideas, parent company of the The Happy Planner. Her latest book is titled “Plan a Happy Life.”