Dear Teen Parenting Coach

Q: My Son Gives Up After the First Tough Problem!

The problem — unfinished class assignments — is a common one. The root causes, however, are myriad. Is your teen overwhelmed? Losing track of time? Easily distracted? Learn how to troubleshoot here.

Q: “How can I help my son organize school projects or homework with a deadline? Is there a list I can follow to help him finish his work on time — at school and at home? For example, if he does an experiment at school and then needs to fill out a series of questions by the end of the class, my teen struggles to move from one question to another if he gets tripped up on the first one.” —CAMom

Dear CAMom:

Before we dive in, I need to ask: Have you spoken to your teen’s teachers? Or have they discussed this problem with you? What else are they seeing? Is your son possibly distracted and, therefore, doesn’t move on to the next question as quickly as necessary? Does he understand the assignment? Does he know how much time he actually has to do the work? Or is he possibly overwhelmed with the amount of it?

I would first advise you to get a better “read” on what is happening in the classroom so that any systems or support that are put in place are specific to your son’s needs.

With that being said, here are three strategies I’ve honed over years of working with students facing similar challenges.

1. Set Time Limits

What does that mean? If you find that time management is the issue, ask the teacher if your son can use a visual timer. A timer can help a student self-monitor AND keep track of time. So, for example, a timer placed on your teen’s desk during the allotted assignment time can help him know exactly where the time is going and also help him become aware of impending transitions to other assignments.

2. Try Body Doubling

A “body double” functions as an anchor. The presence of another individual focuses a person and makes it possible to ignore distractions and stay focused on important tasks. Perhaps your teen can sit next to an industrious student. This close proximity can help your teen stay anchored, focused, and complete his work.

[Free Resource: Boost Your Teen’s Executive Functions]

3. Eliminate the Overwhelm

Perhaps the amount of work on the page is overwhelming for your teen. If this is the case, teach your teen to eliminate “distractions” by covering up the questions he is NOT working on. If he only sees one or two questions on the page, he might feel less anxious and move through the assignment quickly.

Most importantly, sit down with your teen and simply ask what he thinks he might be struggling with. You’d be surprised how insightful kids can be when they are asked!

And if you are looking for more tips and tools, please check out our one-hour video, “It’s About Time,” chock full of tools to help your teen. You can find it at Good luck!

Do you have a question for ADDitude’s Dear Teen Parenting Coach? Submit your question or challenge here.

The opinions and suggestions presented above are intended for your general knowledge only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your own or your child’s condition.