Lately, I have observed that many disorganized children who work with me are living with disorganized parents. Executive dysfunction is not limited only to children! Despite reminders families frequently forget our appointments, arrive late, don’t come at all, miss scheduled phone calls, leave wallets and purses at home, etc. Parents often admit to being disorganized and overwhelmed. Yet, they are bringing their child to me to help them be more organized!
Somehow this seems a bit unfair. How can we expect a child of a disorganized parent to be organized? In truth, no strategy or system I suggest will work if the parents do not implement or reinforce it at home.
Being a disorganized parent is not a bad thing. However, family life can become very stressful if a disorganzied parent has higher expectations for their child than they do for themselves. Some parents claim that parenting a child with special needs creates chaos and disorganization, and this may be true. But which comes first? The disorganization or the disruptive child?
I am not judging disorganized families because I live in one! My husband and I are not the most organized people in the world. Our home is not always neat and not everything has a place. I can blame Peter’s ADHD or my learning differences and those do play a role, but if I really wanted to, I could organize my home better. (I’m not so sure about Pete :-)). I’ve missed doctor’s appointments (and paid the no show fee), and have been known to run late or behind schedule. Sometimes the disorganization does stress us out and I know we need to do something about it. Here is how I manage our disorganized family to keep us all on track as best we can.
1. I admit we are disorganized and do not assign blame to anyone in particular. Being disorganized is not a terrible, horrible, shameful trait. No need to get upset about it.
2. I pick one area of organization to focus on. So, while some of our “stuff” is not well organized, our schedule and routines are well established and run smoothly. Everyone eats, sleeps and gets to work and school on time.
3. We are careful to keep Alex’s (my son) stuff as organized as possible and pick up his things at night so he can find them again in the morning.
4. We eliminate things we don’t use. Less stuff to organize! We donate, recycle, give away, and throw away often.
5. We do not buy lots of “stuff,” either. Saves money, saves stress, saves organizing energy.
6. Once a week we go through the house to clean and put things away. Yes, once a week our house looks pulled together! It gives us the confidence to know that if we had last minute notice that Tom Brady and Giselle were stopping by for dinner, we could look presentable!
7. We accept “good enough” organization. There may not be many neat files in my filing cabinet, but I know where to find important papers in a pile!
The trick to being a sane, yet disorganized, family is that we accept that organization is not a strength and do our best to manage this family weakness. Alex is too young to have homework and maybe someday he will have a hard time organizing it. I wouldn’t be surprised. We will just need to add another responsibility to our parenting list: teach Alex to organize homework and follow through! Thank goodness I have a few years to figure out how to fit that in to my organization priority list!