Back-to-school season often equates to frustrating evenings at the dining room table trying to get homework done. While not every assignment brings tears, there are plenty that feel painful—for both kids and parents. Homework stress can cause frustration and anxiety for the whole family and bad habits can follow a kid through their academic years.
Luckily, there are plenty of habits kids and parents can put in place to lower the stress of homework and create a more rewarding and satisfying experience. Take back your evenings and reduce family friction with these tips.
Stick to a schedule
Schedules help students, especially younger ones, feel more secure and comfortable. They reduce the probability of behavioral problems and enhance productivity and organization. Help your child create an after-school schedule. Break out some paper and markers and help them visually allocate time for rest, chores, homework, outdoor time, sleep, etc. This will help them know what to expect so they feel ready, motivated and focused when homework time rolls around.
Designate a homework space
Have your child designate a space where they will do their homework each day. This space should be as quiet as possible and away from distractions like the TV or favorite toys. Keeping the space clean and quiet will help your child associate that space with focus and productivity. As students get older, this, of course, can change to fit their personal preferences.
little girl sitting at a table working on homework
Make time to decompress and relax
After a long day at school, it’s never a good idea to have your child jump right into their homework. Make sure to designate time to do something they enjoy, whether it’s playing outside or engaging in an organized extracurricular activity. This gives them time to relax and to restore their focus and motivation before getting back to work.
Don’t wait too long
The later it gets in the day, the more difficult it’s going to be to focus. So, try to have your child start their homework before dinnertime.
Make a healthy snack
Practically all kids are hungry when they get home from school. While it’s not ideal to get work done on a full stomach, eating a healthy snack provides kids with a boost in energy and focus. Once they’re fed and no longer on the verge of being hangry, they’re much more likely to be cooperative and motivated to get their homework done.
mom and little girl eating ice cream and being silly
If your child is showing signs of frustration, such as excessive fidgeting or frustrated groans, it might be time to take a quick brain break. Breaks offer countless benefits, such as improved mood, productivity and motivation, decreased stress, plus a chance to restore focus, attention-span and creativity. This break should be no longer than five minutes, and can include activities like going outside, stretching, or just leaving the room.
Keep it positive
Helping your child think and speak positively about their homework is incredibly important. Our thoughts and statements have a significant impact on our reality, so those negative thoughts and words can significantly hinder a students’ ability to get their homework done. If you hear your child say something like “I can’t do this,” help them to think more positively.
Encourage them to take some deep breaths and practice re-affirming techniques, like “I may not understand this right now, but I am smart and can figure this out.” Correcting negative thinking, paired with taking a quick break, are incredibly useful tools in preventing meltdowns.
Create a safe space
If your child is stuck or getting frustrated, make sure they know that it’s always okay to ask for help. It might also be a good idea to email your child’s teacher or send your child to school with a list of questions, so that you can better assist them next time.
For math problems, instead of emphasizing speed or memorization, foster a growth mindset. Success in memorization and quick calculation does not mean your child understands the fundamentals of how math works. Encourage your child to tackle math challenges and pursue different paths to solve a problem. Making mistakes along the way is part of the learning process.
teacher helping a student with homework
Find outside resources
Helping your child with homework can definitely be tough, especially as they learn increasingly advanced concepts. However, there are many tutoring options, to not only help your child with their homework, but to eliminate homework stress, and also ensure they excel this school year.
Establish a healthy sleep routine
Sleep is critical to ensuring your child functions optimally each day. In fact, countless studies have concluded that, generally, sleep is associated with academic performance. A lack of sleep not only impairs cognitive abilities and can subsequently harm academic performance, but also causes your child to be particularly moody and uncooperative. So, talk to your child about the importance of sleep and ensure that they are getting more than enough time to recharge at the end of each day.
John Bianchette, Vice President of Education and Training of Mathnasium, which is responsible for developing the curriculum of mathematics that is being taught across the globe in over 1,100 learning centres to students K-12.