Help your child with homework, without losing your mind
by Amber Brandt
Tired of homework headaches? Between busy work weeks and the pressure to get dinner on the table each night, it can be especially tricky to make room for homework without becoming stressed. Plus, there are actually quite a few benefits your child receives by completing homework. It helps your child:
- Practice independence and develop a sense of responsibility
- Read, interpret and follow instructions
- Manage or budget their time
- Develop good study habits and complete tasks
- Experience pride in a job well done
Here are a few handy ways the experts have cited to reduce homework pressure and help your child complete their tasks effectively — without doing it yourself!
- Make space. Where is your child most comfortable? Choose a homework space that makes sense for them that’s void of natural, electronic or media distractions. Choose an area that’s well-lit, comfortable and stocked with whatever school supplies your child will need — anywhere from a bedroom desk to the kitchen counter or table. Just be sure the spot makes sense for that child, and that they complete their homework in that space each time.
- Create routine. Every kid is different, but most need a snack and a break from the school day before tackling their at-home work. Do they need 30 minutes of outdoor play before starting? Are they more refreshed after dinner? Help them focus and you’ll help set them up to succeed. Some parents find a little electronic stimulation on an iPad or video game is helpful for helping their child’s mind to shift gears, others find it only creates a greater challenge when it’s time to shut it off. Don’t hesitate to end an argument by setting a timer before they begin.
- Offer aid, but not too much. Most children would love to have their parents complete homework for them, but resist the urge. Stay close by to chime in when help is needed, but don’t hover — this could create anxiety or provide your child an easy excuse not to think for themselves. Some parents practice the “3 question rule.” They’ve set the expectation that their child is allowed to ask three questions during the course of the homework, but they have to practice good judgment on when to use them. In other words, why waste a valuable question on something you already know the answer to?!
The child who loves to complete their homework is rare, but if you sense what seems to be an abnormally high amount of frustration or struggle around homework, there are a few things you can consider:
- Go back to basic study skills. Is it time to create some flashcards? Perhaps you can introduce your child to taking notes, or underlining important details on a handout as they read.
- Ask for help. If you’re seeing struggle at home, there’s a good chance your child’s teacher is too. Contact the teacher for a special sit down chat about your concerns and possible strategies for helping to tackle the frustration as a team.
- Encourage your child to reach out. Is there another student in class who always seems to ‘get it?’ Maybe they can help. What about extra time before or after school with the teacher? Empower them to advocate for themselves.
- Explore possible broader issues. Perhaps the frustration your child is experiencing has more to do with the way they actually learn. Be open to exploring other underlying difficulties as well, such as learning disabilities, ADHD, or vision and hearing challenges that may be interfering with their ability to understand or pay attention in class.