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5 Parenting Hacks for Surviving the “Last-Minute” Life With Teens

No matter how much we try to teach our teens to plan ahead, it’s inevitable they will forget something. We live in the “last-minute” with our kids, where we must decide whether to race to their rescue or allow them to face the consequences of their disorganization. Sometimes we drop everything because we want them to succeed and we know they’re still trying to figure out how to keep track of everything in their lives. Staying organized and keeping others informed is hard enough for adults to manage, it’s no wonder our busy teens just can’t seem to keep it all together! But we can’t help wondering how we can stop the last-minute madness.

Always Last-Minute? 5 Parenting Hacks

Teaching our teens how to be responsible planners takes patience, time, and resourcefulness. Here are some ideas that have worked for my family:

  1. Keep a family schedule.

Expect your teens to fill in their own schedules, including school, sports and extracurricular activities, social events and any other important dates they need to remember. This is the first place they should look each day to check their schedule. There are many ways to do this, such as having the entire family use the same phone app, or keeping a white board in a central location in your home, or using my family’s old school method, a calendar on the refrigerator. Teach your teen that if it’s not on the schedule, it doesn’t exist.

  1. Have your teen keep daily and weekly to-do lists.

This might include house chores, homework, buying items for school, sports practices, band rehearsals, and any other social or extracurricular activities they attend. Often when things are written down, having a tangible list to refer to helps keep things organized for your teens. They can use their assignment notebook, a separate notebook, or even use apps on their phone where they can track it all on their own personal calendar and write down “to do lists” to manage their day to day life.

  1. Have your teen use their phone to help them remember.

Setting alarms on their phones can be a good way for teens to manage their day. It’s an accessory they almost always have with them and alarms can serve as reminders to follow through on specific tasks. Setting alarms to limit their time on social media, watching TV or playing video games can also be a great way to help them be more mindful of how they spend their time.

  1. Check in often with your teen.

Ask your teen what they have planned for the next day. Remind them to check their schedule each evening and plan the next day before it arrives. Have ongoing conversations with your teens about organizing the day’s activities and ask them to map out the details and discuss them with you. Expect them to tell you when, how, who, and where so you have all the information you need to help them be successful in their planning.

  1. Remember they’re still learning.

Teens are learning how to manage their schedule, but they’re bound to slip up. They will not have it all together, they will not think like we think, and they certainly will continue to challenge us with their forgetfulness. Their brains just aren’t there yet. Teaching them how to structure their life more efficiently is an ongoing, sometimes maddening process that takes time. Modeling good organizational skills and setting these expectations will help them learn by example and develop the much-needed ability to manage their lives.

Christine Carter writes about motherhood and parenting, health and wellness, marriage, friendship, and faith. You can find her work on her blog,, and several online publications. She is the author of Help and Hope While You’re Healing: A woman’s guide toward wellness while recovering from injury, surgery, or illness.” And Follow Jesus: A Christian Teen’s Guide to Navigating the Online World”. 

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