My son is struggling at school. We were told to create space at home so he can focus on homework. The problem is we live in a tiny apartment, the same one my wife and I have shared since marriage, and we can’t afford to move. What can we do?
I feel for your situation. Please know that this is more common than you think. Many couples begin families in homes that are built for two and then find that they stay long past the years when their children are little. Believe it or not, you don’t have to move to make this work. All you need is to put on a new hat so you can begin to think differently about your space.
Here’s a strategy for how to think this through:
Step 1: Take a Mental Tour
Start by taking a mental tour of your home, from the front door in. Allow yourself to see your home empty, as if you were walking in for the first time. What do you see beyond the furniture, bookcases and the items of your life?
Step 2: Envision Your Child
Now, think about this same home filled first and foremost with a quiet space for your child to concentrate. Allow your mind to envision what would work best for him, and do not judge the answer that bubbles up. The truth is, you might realize very quickly that the best place for him is where, perhaps, the TV currently lives. Or, perhaps a corner of the home that has always served as a home office. Or, even a busy nook that if cleared out, would nicely transform into a haven for your child.
Step 3: Talk to Your Family
Have with a conversation with your wife, and then with your son. Check in on your ideas about how to shift space to make things work. Ask them to do the mental tour as well and see what bubbles up. Approach this as a team issue, and together you will find a solution that makes sense.
Step 4: Commit to Change
Once you decide the location of your son’s new homework space, make it so. Take a Saturday to shop for a desk, clean and clear the space and set up the area so that it works for him. Check out our How to Prepare Your Family and Home for Back to School for some great small space set-up ideas!
And, remember to stay positive about the process, even if it means having to temporarily displace the family TV. When you give yourself permission to look at your situation through a fresh lens – that of helping your child to achieve – your priorities will shift and quickly become clear.
Check out our Success Story about Sisi, a family we used these techniques with to help a similar situation.
Photo by Viktor Hanacek.