As the chill in the air becomes more prevalent it is hard to deny that summer is over and the new school year is in full swing. The “honeymoon” period is over and the realities of schoolwork become more evident. For many children, homework can bring tears, frustration, tantrums and feelings of helplessness. Many parents question how much they should support their child in completing homework, but often feel that their child may need extra help. While even the best of students can struggle completing homework, children experiencing a learning disability or ADHD typically have even more challenges which may contribute to homework battles.
With a spirit of hopefulness, here are some general tips to help yourself and your struggling child.
For the Parents and Caregivers:
- Assess yourself before sitting down to help your child. Are you hungry, tired, frustrated about something that happened earlier in the day? Take some deep breaths, have a snack, grab a glass of water. Take a walk around the yard to “Zen” yourself. If you can approach homework calmly and with a positive attitude it will set your child at ease.
- Remind yourself that homework is ultimately for the student to complete. Completing your child’s assignments does not allow them to develop the necessary skills to be successful.
“The parent’s role in the homework process is supportive rather than active. Parents must provide the structure at home needed to facilitate the process. The child’s role is active and the child must accept responsibility for completing the task.” ~Terry Illes from Meeting the Homework Challenges
- When in doubt speak with your child’s teacher. They can be fabulous resources and can guide you with how much help to give your child and when it is appropriate to back off. If homework is taking hours out of the evening ask the teacher or teachers how much time your child should be spending on homework nightly. The teacher(s) may be able to modify the homework assignment to meet your child’s need.
For the Students:
- Assess your child. Are they hungry, thirsty, tired, antsy? Fuel them before hitting the books. Whether they need a snack or dinner, a run around the block or a quiet time to relax, meeting those basic needs first sets up everyone for success. Also determine the best time of day to complete homework, whether it be right after school or after a break.
- Create a consistent place that your child can do their homework. It could be at the kitchen table, at a desk in a bedroom or wherever they feel most comfortable. Ideally a place with minimal distraction (in front of the television is not a wise idea) is recommended. If needed, check-in with your child periodically to determine if they are getting stuck or frustrated.
- Pull together the typical supplies that your student needs to accomplish their homework and keep them in an easily accessible spot. Having basic supplies such as paper, pencils, erasers, a ruler, scissors, and calculator nearby will help them be prepared and stay on task.
- Some students, such as those experiencing ADHD, may benefit from having pre-established breaks. Set a timer (or have them set one for themselves) at a predetermined interval (e.g., 10, 15 or 20 minutes, depending on their age and ability to focus). Learn what helps them best to “re-set” themselves and have then return to their work. This may take some experimenting to see what intervals work best for them and it may vary from night to night.
- Is there a subject that they struggle with or dislike the most? Start with that subject first to get it out of the way. Or have them work on it for a little while, set it aside, work on something less challenging and then return to it later. Experimenting with different strategies is a great way to see what works best for your student. Don’t be afraid to mix it up.
- Music in the background may actually be helpful for some students to complete tasks. You may find that your student has an easier time focusing when there is music playing in the background.
It is important to realize that some children may struggle with homework completion because of an undiagnosed learning or attentional challenge. The providers at the Portsmouth Neuropsychology Center are available to consult with you about your child and provide ideas to maximize their success. Some children may benefit from a comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation, support from a tutor, or other supports. There are many resources and ideas that you and your child can tap into! So don’t give in to frustration and do know you are not alone.
All of us at the Portsmouth Neuropsychology Center are wishing you many successful homework nights ahead!