NOTE: This didn’t get done on Friday as I enjoyed my last few days with my youngest. He left yesterday (ugly crying!) so I am back to work! Thank you for your patience while I rearranged the schedule a bit!
One of the biggest issues that children with reactive attachment disorder have is with what is officially termed “executive function”. This encompasses everything that has to do with organizational skills. And for our RAD kiddos this is an area they have a real problem with.
I know for years August and I struggled to find ways to make it easier for him to keep school papers together and keep track of assignments. It seemed like we tried every combination of folder, notebook, agenda and calendar system we could find both for school and home. With mixed successes because of both his lack of executive function and unfortunately his lack of interest in school. With a dash of ADHD thrown in for good measure!
This can be a great source of stress and tension with you and your RAD kiddo. Because it’s a never ending game of “the dog ate my homework” when you are constantly trying to find assignments and papers. When schoolwork in many cases is already enough of a struggle, just finding the paper shouldn’t add to the anxiety.
So how to make the whole organization process work? There are several things you can do at home. But it really needs to be a school/home partnership to make it truly successful.
Establish A Relationship with the Teacher – Of course you’re going to go to Back to School night or Meet the Teacher night or whatever it’s called where you live. But you’re going to need a method of communicating that probably goes beyond the norm. When August started school I debated about volunteering in his classroom just to be another set of ears. But I decided that it would create too much anxiety for him. But not being in the classroom means you have to have a relationship with the teachers that lets them know you’re involved. You aren’t going to let your child slide but you can communicate their issues and problem-solve together. Sometimes I would tell teachers that their homework assignments were too much for him. It just was. You know your child best. Help them help your child be successful.
Write it down – When August was in middle school they issued each child an agenda. They were school year-based calendars customized for their school. They were to be used to keep track of homework and projects. Teachers had the students write their homework in the agendas for that class for that day. Well that works fine if your child knows what day it is and isn’t distracted by well…everything. And fails to write it down. Nowadays I know much more information is available online but that is only if the teacher chooses to use that tool. You can make it a part of your child’s IEP (and if you don’t have an IEP, GET ONE) that their homework notes are signed off on by the teacher. That way they bring home an accurate accounting of what they need to do.
Try Different Timelines – When August was in kindergarten, his teacher would give them a packet of homework at the beginning of each month. That way they could work at their own pace. If they had a bad day, then they could take the day off. This is also an excellent plan for our RAD kiddos. Depending on the age, a whole month of homework may not be feasible. But maybe you could talk to the teacher about a week at a time. That way, if there was a day in the week that your RAD kiddo just isn’t in a good place, you have time to recover and move on.
Let them be part of the process – When setting up a homework station, let your RAD kiddo help with the location (within reason), design, colors, pens, pencils, papers, etc. RAD is very much about control and the more they feel like they have made the choices, the more likely it is they will use the space. The same will go for other aspects of organization: picking out a backpack, an agenda, folder colors and on and on.
These are some ideas that have worked for me in the past. Here are some other tips for both school and home. And this article helps to teach organizational skills outside of the school environment. Please share your tips and tricks that have worked for you. We all get better when we work together!
If you are like me, one of the constant challenges with your RAD kiddos is getting out the door in the morning. And whether you have one, two or twelve children, the chaos and stress seems to be the same. Someone isn’t dressed. Another hasn’t finished eating. One might not even be awake yet. And don’t get me started on missing homework, projects, permission slips, pens, pencils, phones and other necessities of school life!
I liken trying to get our kiddos out the door to this sweet little one. Her mom took this picture of her before her first day of preschool. Which I call our dream of what our children would look like heading out the door:
Then she took a picture of her at the end of that same first day of preschool as she was coming home. Which I imagine is more the reality of how many of our kiddos look on their way to school:
Certainly it’s not for a lack of trying. If you’re like me, you’ve woken up early, and tried tons of tricks and bribery to get your children moving earlier and faster to get the day started with less stress and…let’s admit it, screaming. But more often than not, no one is speaking to each other by the time you hit the car. And there’s a lot of door slamming with no one hearing the sarcastic, “I love you” that you yell as they leave for the day and you breathe a sigh of relief. It’s OK to admit it.
But we never want it to be that way. Children are little for such a short time and we would love to have these precious morning times. OK we’d at least love for them to be less tumultuous! I have found some ideas from the experts but here are my suggestions of things I think are sure-fire things to make mornings go smoother. If not at first, maybe in the long run.
The Launch Pad: I have mentioned this before but it is the essential element of the busy family. And as I have aged it is also the essential element of the middle-aged mind! It is the one place in the house that everything that needs to leave the house must go. Maybe each of you has a basket by the door. Maybe that’s too chaotic a space and you find baskets elsewhere. But keys, phones, backpacks, school papers, lunchboxes, EVERYTHING that has to do with coming and going gets put here.
Which means if your son hands you a permission slip to fill out and you don’t put it back in the launch pad? That’s on you, not them. If they come home and drop their phone on the couch and it gets lost in the cushions and can’t be found when it’s time to leave the next morning? That’s on them. When it’s time to head out, everything that needs to be had should be ready to go on the launch pad. Including your stuff.
Picking out clothes the night before: I watched a friend argue with her daughter for 40 minutes over a dress for church. They were visiting and it was the only dress she’d brought. Her daughter was tall for her age and my friend was 6 months pregnant so it wasn’t very fun for either of them. Clothes can be a harsh battleground for some kids and not a hill to die on at 6:30am. Picking out clothes the night before can eliminate one potential morning battle. Even narrowing the choices to two can get you closer to the promised land.
Sleeping medicating: I talked about doing this with August. We used to give him his ADHD meds while he was basically still asleep. He’d take them then sleep for another 1/2 hour while they kicked in. It was, if I must say, a brilliant move on our part because the child that woke up was calm, engaged and willing to follow directions. Unlike the unmedicated child who would be difficult and aggravated by everything. I highly recommend it.
Natural consequences: This is a biggie. Would it kill your teenager to have to go to school in PJs? Nope. They might think so. Would it kill your straight A student to go to school without that homework that they can’t find? Nope. But they are much less likely to make those mistakes again. And it doesn’t make you a monster parent. Some natural consequences aren’t worth it. But every now and then you can find those that teach the valuable lessons your RAD kiddos need to learn. They can learn while still knowing you always are there to back them up. Send an email to the teacher about why the homework isn’t coming that day with a picture that it was indeed finished. Bring clothes to school for later.
Here are some other ideas which I thought were thoughtful (not just because they have the same first idea I did!) I think the key is to try your best to stay calm. One way or another you’ll get out the door. You don’t have to compare your kiddos or your parenting to anyone else. Success is what you decide. And remember, breathing that sigh of relief is OK!
Today’s post may fall into the category of “those who can’t, teach”. I am sort of organized about many things. I am NOT organized about A LOT of things. My clutter tolerance is high. Right now I am writing from a desk that is almost invisible due to the amount of papers covering it. Occasionally I reach my limit and do a massive purge and get ALMOST organized. But not quite. Never all the way. Never to the point where I have systems or processes.
Some places I am better. There are a few things in the kitchen where I am a stickler for organization. But that’s mostly what I inherited from my grandmother, in whose house I live now. I put things where she did, organized just so. Now the truth is she was one stack of newspapers away from an episode of “Hoarders”, but the bins and bins of craft materials were well-organized. Sort of. I am still digging out from under some of that.
In an attempt of “Physician heal thyself”, I thought I’d focus on some organization tips today that maybe I can learn from, too. I know when the chaos of RAD life is whirling all around, finding a few places where life is organized can seem a big help. Hopefully these ideas will do that.
Organized people avoid the big black hole. The bigger the storage space, the larger the mess. Smaller compartments and containers are the solution. Smaller bins inside large sideboard drawers to hold candles and napkins and small pouches inside large purses to hold lipsticks and pens will help minimize even the littlest bit of stress.
Organized people trick themselves with treats. Don’t think children are the only ones who can be bribed! Clean the garage gets you a pedicure? Of course it does! Laundry gets you a bubble bath and glass of wine? You bet!
Organized people say no to spillover. My son was a hoarder of things. Sometimes none of it made sense. I’m sure many of you can relate. But allowing ALL the stuffed animals in the room will eventually make you want to move and leave no forwarding address! We started donating some every year before Christmas which helped reduce the population, keep a little more organized and embrace a spirit of giving. If that’s not something your child can handle, try putting some away in a bin a rotating the bins every couple of months. You keep your organization and the kids get new toys more frequently! Everybody wins!
Organized people keep useful things close. So how often do you use that juicer that you always have to move to get to the blender? Take some time to look around your kitchen, your dining room, your office and arrange it so that the items you really use are handy. Anything you don’t use should be donated and anything you use infrequently should be stored up high or in the back.
Organized people spend 30 seconds now to save hours later. When you hold an item, decide right then where its final resting place should be. If you drop it in a pile, then that pile will be what you spend two hours dealing with over the weekend when you could be doing something much more interesting.
Organized people move their cast-offs to their car. Keeping a bin in your car and regularly moving items out of your house and to it helps you stay motivated to get the clutter out. When the bin is full in your car, head to the charity of your choice, empty the bin and keep going!
Organized people have twice as many hooks (and not one thing on the floor). Look around your house. How much wall space do you have? Probably a lot. Think about how much of it could be used for hanging brooms, mops, hair gadgets, clothes, kitchen items, whatever! Pinterest is full of clever wall hanging ideas that don’t break the bank!
Organized people adjust their shelves. Have you ever been bugged by things not fitting in medicine cabinets or bookcases? Most of the time the shelves are adjustable. Take a little time to prioritize what needs to be shelved and get the shelf heights you need to get things on the shelves and out of sight!
Organized people think in zones. Arrange things by use. A pet zone-leash, waste bags, flashlight, treats. In your pantry put all the school lunch items together for easy grabbing in the morning or the night before (or for your kids to make their OWN lunches!) The more your arrange your life to take shorter steps, the less stressed you will be searching for an item every time you need it.
Organized people never miss something they toss. Attaching emotions to things makes getting organized almost impossible. I experienced this when I had to clean out my grandmother’s house when I moved in. The hardest was getting rid of pictures. And some of them were pictures of people who no one in my family could name! Once you make your goal a happier and more organized home, you’ll get rid of the clutter with ease.
Reactive Attachment Disorder can rock your world every minute of every day. I lived with holes in my walls and August had a room with a mattress on the floor and a dresser with no knobs for longer than I can remember. You give up the illusion of the Martha Stewart home pretty early on. But a little organization can go a long way toward keeping you sane.
Please share your organization tips and successes! We can all use some help! (By we I mean ME)
Till next time,