HomeAcademics & ActivitiesAcademic Skills

Ask the Experts

How Do I Help My Son Get Organized?

By Debra Collins, Family therapist


I would like to be able to help my son with organizational skills as he has a hard time organizing (especially his desk at school). If there was some way I could help him with organizing that is fun for a kid, this would be great. I think it would take some stress off of him and help him perform better.


I know quite a few adults who are still working on this, as well. What ever method you use, it takes practice, practice, practice. The repetition is what helps form the skill.

Ask his teacher what system of organization teachers use in helping kids with their desks, assignment and homework tracking, school-day schedule, etc. You may be able to use the same techniques at home, and that would reinforce his skills in more than one environment. If what is happening in the classroom doesn't work for him, or can't be duplicated at home, that's OK. You can always start having him organize his workspace and room., When he has those mastered, you can move on to the classroom.

I think children find organizing fun when they get to participate in designing their routine and can take ownership of their process. Let your son figure out with you what works best for him. Ask him what he thinks will help him keep track of his things. Find out if he likes things numbered, color-coded, or written out. What does he best respond to? We all learn differently.

Approach organizing as a fun thing and give him positive feedback for his ideas. Be creative. Maybe the two of you can spearhead a family-organizing activity for your whole household and that way it won't feel to him as though he has "a problem." Maybe you can finally get that one drawer in the kitchen or your closet cleaned up with his help.

Debra Collins is a licensed marriage and family therapist and has worked in both primary and middle schools as a school counselor. She gives workshops to teachers and students and offers parenting classes in the San Francisco Bay Area. To learn more, visit her website.

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.

Comments from readers

"This works for my son, he loves to make his own rules! We talk and I put the ideas on paper, that makes him feel like the teacher and I am the student doing the paperwork! We go back over the ideas and decide what goes on our real chart. Then he and I BOTH sign to show that we think this is something that will work for him and that I have his back! We use this for many 'problems' and it has worked very well,no is fun. I have needed to show him his signature once or twice to get things back on track, but it works for us."