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How can I help my child . . .

  • get/stay organized and manage their time responsibly?
  • take initiative and develop independence?, (communicate problems and ask for what they need, stay organized, and set and reach goals)
  • be responsible and reliable?
  • better manage stress and strong emotions?

As teens move toward adulthood, they can start to take more responsibility for themselves, their behavior, and their own lives. With less help from adults, they begin to keep track of their own schedules for school, work, social life, and extracurricular activities. They’re required to be organized and stay motivated to keep on top of school assignments and other responsibilities. They need to be reliable and accountable for their actions.Learning these skills helps them become successful, responsible adults.  These new expectations can be challenging and stressful, especially for teens with ADHD or other learning disabilities that affect focus and organization.  For all teens to handle their independence and the feelings of stress and pressure that often come along with it, they need self-management skills

Self-management is also sometimes called “self-control,” or “self-regulation.” These skills help teens manage their own behavior effectively in different situations and include:

  • Getting and staying organized 
  • Managing time and schedules
  • Keeping up with responsibilities
  • Plan ahead and set goals for the future
  • Staying motivated through challenges and setbacks
  • Handling stress and pressure 
  • Calming down when feeling strong emotions 
  • Asking for help when needed

Self-management skills go hand in hand with self-awareness. For example, in order to calm down when feeling strong emotions (self-management), teens first need to be able to :

  • identify their emotions (self-awareness)
  • recognize the signs of stress (self-awareness) and
  • know what will help them feel calm (self-awareness).

Why It Matters 

Children develop and mature at different rates. Some teens may be more than ready to juggle the more complex demands of high school life. Others may need reminders and support to stay on task and manage new demands, pressure, and responsibilities. At times, your teen may reject your input and may act as though you are nagging or harassing them. At other times, they may get overwhelmed and need your help staying on track with everyday tasks. This is all part of the process of growing up and beginning to take responsibility for their own lives.

Research shows that young people with strong self-management skills 

  • do better and feel happier in school
  • manage social stress and peer relationships more effectively
  • are more likely to graduate from high school and go on to college 
  • have higher income levels and fewer financial problems later in life
  • have fewer chronic health problems
  • are less likely to misuse alcohol and other drugs  

You are the most important influence on your child and on their development of critical self-management skills. 

Letting your teen gradually handle more responsibility while encouraging them to ask for support when they need it will help them learn the skills needed to manage themselves.

Check In:

Take this brief survey to identify your child’s strengths and areas for further development in some key self-management skills.

Take this brief survey to identify your child’s strengths and areas for further development in some key self-management skills.

  1. When it comes to morning routines and getting ready for school (getting up on time, gathering needed items, being ready to leave on time), my teen: 
    1. handles most tasks themselves without a problem.
    2. sometimes needs reminders or a little help from me.
    3. needs a lot of support getting ready and remembering what they need to do/bring.
  2. When it comes to their own room and belongings, my teen:
    1. keeps their stuff neat and organized.
    2. is mostly organized and cleans up when asked.
    3. is disorganized and messy and has trouble keeping track of belongings.
  3. When it comes to completing schoolwork, chores, and other responsibilities, my teen:
    1. knows what they need to do and gets it done.
    2. needs a little support and supervision to stay on track.
    3. has trouble getting things done without a lot of help and reminders.
  4. When my teen is doing something that is challenging or requires effort, they:
    1. stay positive, stick to it, and keep going until they finish.
    2. may act frustrated, but eventually, work through it.
    3. often react negatively or give up in frustration.
  5. When my teen feels overwhelmed or frustrated, they usually:
    1. ask for the help they need.
    2. accept help if it’s offered.
    3. tend to complain or give up.
  6. When my teen gets upset or has strong emotions, they:
    1. take time to calm down and respond thoughtfully.
    2. might lose their cool at first, but calm down easily and apologize later.
    3. lose control, react angrily, or blame others.
  7. When my teen gets stressed, they:
    1. use strategies or activities that help them relax.
    2. don’t do anything special, but eventually, get past it.
    3. have a lot of trouble coping and calming down.
  8. When it comes to the future (near or far), my teen
    1. sets goals and takes steps to achieve them.
    2. sometimes talks about goals, but needs help figuring out the next steps.
    3. doesn’t think about it.

Review your responses. For most teens, the answers will be a mix of 1’s, 2’s, and 3’s.

For example, your child may manage their time effectively, but have trouble keeping their belongings organized or controlling their emotions when they’re stressed or overwhelmed. Or they may be able to stick to challenging tasks but aren’t likely to ask for help when they need it. The good news is you can take steps now to help them develop stronger self-management skills!

Connect & Communicate:

Start the Conversation:

Start with observations:

“I notice that you’ve got a lot going on lately. It can be hard to stay organized when you’re really busy. What do you think might help? ”

Remind them it’s okay to ask for help:

“You have a lot of responsibilities right now. Remember you can ask for help if you need it. How can I help?”

Model your own self-control:

When feeling stressed or when dealing with conflict, say “I’m going to take a few breaths and calm down before I respond to your comment.”

Set the example:

Talk with your child about what helps you stay organized, like entering tasks in your calendar or planner or making to-do lists.

Hand over some responsibility:

Try to identify tasks your child can start doing for themselves, whether it’s making their own breakfast or lunch, helping out with the laundry, taking out the garbage, or walking the dog. Allow them to choose, but emphasize that family members helping out is part of living together.

Talk about the future:

“If you could become or achieve anything, what would it be?” “What are some jobs or careers you’re interested in?” Talk about how their interests connect to different jobs or careers and help them think through the steps toward achieving their goals.

Tips for teaching your teen self-management skills: 

Print out a blank weekly calendar template and have your teen write down their schedule, including time for homework, chores, as well as free time.  (A variety of fun, customizable templates can be found here:

Set limits on electronics. Many teens are unaware of how many hours they spend on social media or playing video games. Set rules to help them create healthy habits around the use of digital devices.

Set a goal, make a plan, and choose a reward:  Help your teen choose a realistic, personal goal, for example, exercising three days a week, or completing a certain number of college applications.  Help them identify when they’ll work on their goal and be specific about how much time they’ll spend on it. Have them choose how they’ll reward themself after they complete their goal.  Check in on their progress weekly and offer encouragement. Treat them to the reward when they reach their goal.

Set aside time for a weekly bag clean-out. Make it a weekly habit (Sunday nights are a great time) for you and your teen to organize your backpack/bag/purse together. Doing it together will make it feel like less of a chore, and you can both start the week off on a good foot. 

Encourage your teen to volunteer or get involved with community service opportunities. These are great chances for them to develop a sense of responsibility.

Talk to your teen about ways to manage their stress. Teach them strategies like taking deep breaths, counting slowly, taking a walk around the block, shooting hoops, or writing in a journal.

Help them identify organization tools that work for them like writing to-do lists, setting calendar events or reminders on their phones, or exploring various organization apps available online.

Contact & Collaborate:

Your teen’s school along with local community organizations and other parents are great places to connect with for additional ways to support your teen’s social development: 

  • Help your child establish a connection with their guidance counselor. Set up a meeting or reach out by phone. Make sure your child feels comfortable going to their office when they feel anxious, need help managing their workload, or navigate social stress. 
  • Learn what your child’s school and other organizations in the local community have to offer in terms of tutoring and homework help, as well as community service and volunteer opportunities. 
  • Join a local parenting group on social media.

Continue Learning:

Explore these resources for more ideas on how to support your teen’s development of self-management skills.

Talking To Teens: Expert Tips for Parenting Teenagers

Parent-teen researcher Andy Earle talks with various experts about the art and science of parenting teenagers. Find more at

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